PAssages – November 15, 2007 – Johnny Bower made honorary citizen of Prince Albert


by Joan Champ

When Gordon and I moved to Prince Albert, we attended several events at the Art Hauser Centre, including Raiders games. We were both impressed by the large copper statue of Johnny Bower in the main lobby. This statue was unveiled when Bower came to Prince Albert to be made an honourary citizen in November of 2007.

The pride of Prince Albert and one of the greatest goalies in hockey history, Johnny Bower, passed away at the age of 93 on December 26, 2017. Born into a family of Ukrainian heritage in Prince Albert on November 8, 1924, John Kiszkan was the only boy of nine children. When he started playing professional hockey, Johnny changed his last name to Bower, saying he changed it so the sportscasters would pronounce it correctly.

In the many interviews that Bower gave over the years, he always talked about playing hockey on Prince Albert’s outdoor rinks and ponds when he was a boy. “That’s where I learned my hockey really, when it was around 35, 40, 45 below zero,” Bower recalled. “Forty-five below zero, yeah, we had ear muffs on, and oh we froze our feet, we froze our ears, we froze our toes, we froze everything you can think of, but we still played there on the ice.”

Many kids back then didn’t have hockey equipment because, like some kids today, they couldn’t afford it. Legend has it that Bower’s dad went across the river and found a tree that was shaped like a hockey stick and shaved it down for him. Bower used that hand-carved stick in his position as goaltender. “I could hardly lift it, honest to God was it heavy,” Bower said. “And I used it for quite a bit, and it helped me to keep my stick down on the ice. And that’s how it all started.” Soon, he was playing in goal for the Prince Albert Black Hawks of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League.

In 1940, when he was 15 years old, Bower lied about his age to enlist in the army. He was sent to a training camp in British Columbia and was eventually sent overseas. He was discharged in 1944 due to rheumatoid arthritis, and returned to Prince Albert where he resumed his Junior hockey career with the Black Hawks.

Bower’s first game back in the PA net was against a Saskatoon team that included a young guy named Gordie Howe. Bower’s team lost badly to the boys from Saskatoon, but something good happened. At that game, Bower was seen by a scout for the New York Rangers who asked him if he’d like to try out for the American Hockey League (AHL). Bower asked his father, who let him go even though he thought hockey was too rough of a game. When Bower returned home to Prince Albert after his first AHL season, his father took one look at all the scars on Bower’s face and asked, “Don’t you know how to duck?” Bower played without fear – and without a mask.

Johnny Bower played 25 professional seasons, 12 of them for Toronto Maple Leafs. He was 36 years old when he started as a goalie for the Leafs in 1958-59, but despite his age, Bower’s great skills helped the Leafs to win four Stanley Cups during the 1960s.

On November 14, 2007, Bower attended a Raiders game – his first public appearance in PA in over 30 years. That night, the lobby of the Art Hauser Centre was named for Johnny Bower, complete with that spectacular statue of Bower in full goalie stance. The following evening, Johnny Bower was made an honorary citizen of Prince Albert.

Response to the British Home Children at St. Patrick’s Orphanage
Bruce Heffernan contacted me after reading my column about the British Home Children at Patrick’s Orphanage (December 12, 2017). He was somewhat surprised to see his father’s name, John Joseph Heffernan, in the article. He said that some of the points I made about his father and uncle are factually incorrect. I asked him to send me the correct version, which he kindly did. Here it is, in Bruce’s own words:

Further to the Heffernan brothers of St. Patrick’s Orphanage in Prince Albert. For the purposes of this e-mail I will refer to them as they were known as Jack and Bill. They were twin brothers born on October 11, 1891. Arrived at Orphanage in 1903 and left a few years later to find work.

Bill moved to Winnipeg, married and raised his family until his death. Jack found work at the Mossom Boyd ranch south of Prince Albert in the Clouston district. He enlisted in the Canadian army and was wounded on Vimy Ridge. After some time in hospital, his right leg was amputated above the knee. He returned to Prince Albert (to my knowledge at no time did either brother consider returning to England). After his return from the army Jack found office employment with the Saskatchewan Provincial Police. He married and raised a family of 6 along the way, farming and operating a store and post office in Clouston, retiring to PA in 1949. Bill passed away in Winnipeg on November 17, 1952. Jack passed away 10 days later on November 27, 1952 at the age of 61 and is buried at the Soldiers plot of South Hills Cemetery in Prince Albert.

PAssages – December 15, 2017 – Employee Buy-Out of the Herald Announced


by Joan Champ

On December 15, 2017, the staff of the Prince Albert Daily Herald brought us good news: an employee buy-out is in the works, designed to prevent the 123-year-old newspaper from closing. This is a good thing for all the people of Prince Albert.

These tidings certainly made me happy. It has been a privilege to be a member of the Prince Albert Daily Herald team – albeit as an arms-length columnist – for these past several months. When my husband, Gordon Brewerton, was hired as publisher by Star News back in April, we were both impressed by the talented, hard-working, and dedicated staff members at the Herald. On December 1st, we moved to North Battleford where Gordon has been hired as Senior Group Publisher for Glacier Media, but we know the Prince Albert newspaper will be well looked after with the employee-buyout.

The Prince Albert Daily Herald started out as the Prince Albert Advocate in 1894. Established as a weekly newspaper in 1908, the Herald became a daily three years later, sometime during the summer of 1911. The newspaper has experienced its share of difficulties over the years. However, when the Herald celebrated its 25th anniversary in 1936 during the hard times of the Great Depression, it reported an increase in circulation.

“The present owners of The Herald have had but one idea in mind, namely, to improve the calibre of the newspaper’s service to the readers,” the paper wrote.

“By doing so, it was hoped greater circulation would, in turn, increase the value of the pages of the newspaper to advertisers.”

This policy evidently brought the hoped-for results. In the face of adversity, the paper had worked even harder to serve its readers – just like what is happening today with the employee takeover.

The Daily Herald remained a locally owned newspaper until 1949, when the Thompson Newspapers chain bought it. Thompson sold the Herald to the Hollinger chain in 1995. The paper went from chain to chain several times after that, to CanWest in 2000, to Transcontinental in 2002, and to Star News Publishing in 2016. As outside interests took over the paper, it became less and less a local affair. This is about to change. As the Herald becomes employee-owned, it becomes locally owned once again.

Local news matters. The people of this city know that. They value their daily newspaper. They also know that the Herald reporters can’t be expected to do their jobs for free. Community members need to support their local paper with their subscriptions and their advertising dollars.

Otherwise, Prince Albert will be facing “local news poverty” – the lack of critical information that citizens need for everyday life.
If you want to have Herald reporters covering local news, holding your local politicians accountable, reporting on crime stories and environmental issues like oil spills in the North Saskatchewan River, remember – this doesn’t come free. Please support, or continue to support, your local newspaper, the Prince Albert Daily Herald.

I know Gordon and I will. We will subscribe to the Herald, even though we now live in North Battleford.

And, with the assistance of the terrific volunteers at the Bill Smiley Archives, I will continue to write this PAssages column.


PAssages – May 5, 1903 – British “Home Children” Arrive at St. Patrick’s Orphanage


by Joan Champ

Last week’s column describing the 1947 fire at St. Patrick’s Orphanage got me curious about the history of this institution. As I delved into the research, I discovered that the first children housed at the Prince Albert orphanage were British “home children.” Seventy Catholic youngsters from London and Liverpool ended up in St. Patrick’s Orphanage in Prince Albert between 1901 and 1904. At least half of them spent their entire childhood in the orphanage located on a block between Fifteenth and Thirteenth Streets West. Unfortunately, the institution’s records were destroyed in the fire of 1947, but I did manage to learn a few things. Maybe there are families in Prince Albert who can trace their ancestry back to some of these British (or Irish) Catholic home children.

“Home children.” It’s an obscure term. We were never taught about them in school, but I was surprised to learn that an estimated 4 million Canadians are descendants of British home children. CBC commentator Don Cherry’s maternal grandfather, for example, was one. So was my husband’s paternal grandfather.

Between 1869 and 1939, over 100,000 impoverished children from England were shipped to Canada to work as farm hands or servants. Only about two percent were orphans; their parents were simply too poor to take care of them. They arrived by ship, and were sent on to distributing or receiving homes, “orphanages,” which then sent them on to work for farmers in the area. Some home children were mistreated or abused, and others, it is said, had a better life than if they had remained in the urban slums of London. Many went on to serve in the Canadian and British armed forces during the First World War.

Most of the home children were wards of Protestant organizations like the Barnardo Homes. Catholic “rescue” or “emigration” societies were also established in England in the late 1800s to deal with the tens of thousands of impoverished Catholic children living on the streets of London and dock areas of Liverpool – the result of a massive influx of starving Irish families to England.
In response to this need, the Catholic orphanage was established in Prince Albert in 1900. The priests, Father Brueck (or Bruck,) and Brother Courbis, contacted one of the Catholic English rescue societies. This resulted in the transfer of 70 British children from a home in Ottawa to St. Patrick’s in Prince Albert. The orphanage assumed the responsibility of looking after the children in exchange for $11,000. This money was used to build east and west wing additions to the original building – dormitories and classrooms for the children. To my knowledge, no more home children were sent to Prince Albert after 1904.

With the orphanage’s pre-1947 records gone up in smoke, it is difficult to learn much about the “inmates,” as they were called back in the day. I did some on-line research to see what I could learn about some of the children. A quick check of the 1906 Canada Census shows that, of the original 70 children, 31 were still living in St. Patrick’s Orphanage in Prince Albert. Because many home children fought in the First World War, I also consulted Library and Archives Canada’s searchable database containing soldiers’ personnel records. Here is some of what I discovered:

George Cornelius Edney, ran away from the orphanage as soon as he arrived. His brother, Harold, age 9, stayed on. There is a grave for a George Cornelius Edney at Woodlawn Cemetery in Saskatoon, died July 19, 1945.

John Joseph Heffernan, born in 1891, in Woolwich, Kent, England, arrived at St. Patrick’s Orphanage on October 14, 1903. When he enlisted in the Canadian Army at Prince Albert to fight overseas in the First World War, he was 24. Heffernan listed his next of kin as his mother, Mary Ann Heffernan, Littlehampton, England. He and his younger brother, William Patrick (born 1893), may have reunited with their mother, or else he simply knew – or hoped – she was still living in England. He listed his trade as farmer.

Charles Burtenshaw was born in Littlehampton, Sussex, England, in 1891. He was brought to the Prince Albert orphanage in October 1903, and was still residing there in 1906. Burtenshaw enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force shortly after the First World War broke out in 1914. He listed his next of kin as Father Courbis, the priest at St. Patrick’s. His trade was listed as “labourer on surveys.”

John Charles Pitt came to St. Patrick’s Orphanage in October 1903 from Wandsworth, England. Born in 1896, his December 1914 enlistment papers state that his parents were dead, listing his next of kin as a sister still living in England. When he enlisted in Prince Albert, he was working as a farmer.

Other names on the list of British home children bought to the Catholic orphanage in Prince Albert in 1903 include: Henry, John, and Catherine (Kate) Mahoney; Ethel K. Brickley; Elizabeth Stannard; Fred, Julia, and Annie Giblin; William Cornelius Holliday; Catherine Hockley; Esther Barrond; Patrick and Michael O’Brien; Mary Sheehan; James Lilly Green. The full list can be found in Appendix 3 of the book, St. Patrick’s Catholic Orphanage, 1903-1973, housed in the Bill Smiley Archives collection of the Prince Albert Historical Museum.

Thanks to the Bill Smiley Archives for its assistance in the preparation of this column.


PAssages – February 1, 1947 – St. Patrick’s Orphanage Fire Claims Seven Lives


by Joan Champ

Imagine you are fast asleep in your west end Prince Albert home on a frigid February evening when suddenly you are awakened by the wail of fire trucks and the brilliant glow of flames illuminating the night sky. You look out your window and are horrified to see crying children running barefoot through the snow as they flee their flaming home – St. Patrick’s Orphanage.

This is exactly what many witnessed on February 1, 1947. Although the mercury stood at 45 degrees below zero, residents along Thirteenth and Fifteenth Streets West rushed to the aid of 122 children and 18 staff members as they stumbled from the orphanage, many barefooted and clad only in their pyjamas. As the building roared in flames, citizens helped the children make the 300-yard-dash across the street to the warmth and safety of Holy Family Hospital. Not all escaped, however. Seven perished in the fire – six young girls and one of the sisters who cared for the children.

Newspaper accounts from the day are filled with dramatic descriptions of the disaster. One 64-year-old sister came struggling barefoot through the snow with five of the toddlers from the nursery. A child, aged six, was seen carrying a two-year-old toward the hospital. Sixteen tots ranging in age from one-and-a-half to six years were carried out, wrapped in blankets, by older girls and members of staff.

The fire started in the basement – probably in bins filled with 42 tons of freshly delivered coal, fuel for the orphanages five furnaces. At 2:00 in the morning, an intense column of flames shot upwards through the main floor, setting the whole three-storey structure on fire in a matter of moments. Witnesses say the flames leapt 25 feet in the air for almost 20 minutes as if fanned by a giant bellows.

“There was no panic, no shouting, no hysteria,” recalled Rev. L. C. Latour, principal of the orphanage, who had arrived two days before the fire to take over his new post. “Greatest order prevailed among the girls,” Father Latour continued, “for they had been drilled on previous occasions on what to do in the event of just such a contingency.” 

Fire Chief J. Becotte reported that 16 firemen were on the scene two minutes after the alarm was received at 2:08 a.m. from the street box outside Holy Family hospital. By then, all the boys were out of their west-wing dormitory, and the girls were coming down the fire escapes of the east wing, many carrying babies and toddlers. The fire was “a losing battle all the way,” the Chief said. It took six hours to bring the fire under control, using 200,000 gallons of water through 2,300 feet of fire hose.

Sister Florena, Superior of the Orphanage, said the six little girls who perished in the fire must have instinctively gone down the front stairs as they always had, right into the worst of the blaze. The girls were soon identified. Loretta Godin, 8, along with her brother and sister, was placed in the orphanage by her father after the death of her mother four years earlier. Frances Chernysh, 7, had been in the orphanage for three years, together with her brother and sister. Their father was a CNR section foreman at Hudson Bay; their mother was dead. Adeline Wojichowski, 7, was in the orphanage with her sister. Their father, who worked in British Columbia, arrived in Prince Albert shortly after the fire. Margaret Rose Desormeaux, 7, had been brought to the orphanage by her father from Steep Creek just one week before the fire. Her younger brother and sister were led to safety from the burning building. Jeannette Paracy, 9, whose mother lived in Prince Albert, had a 7-year-old brother who was uninjured. Madeline Sahyes, 11, had been staying with her grandparents at Cumberland House before coming to the orphanage a year earlier.

Sister Albert Marie of the Charity of the Order of Immaculate Conception, formerly Alice Pilikowski of Prince Albert, also died in the fire. Sister Mary Bertrand later recalled that she and Sister Albert Marie were trapped in their room due to dense smoke outside the door. “We knelt down and renewed our vows, and as we knelt we felt the warm floor beneath us,” she said. Sister Bertrand went to escape out the window, but Sister Albert Marie told her that she couldn’t make it out that way. She perished as the burning floor gave way beneath her. Sister Bertrand slipped off the icy window ledge, falling three floors. City policeman Percy Hiltz covered her with his buffalo coat, which was later used as a stretcher to carry her to the hospital where she remained several months.  

Funeral services for the seven fire victims were held March 1, 1947 in Sacred Heart Cathedral. All recovered remains were place in one coffin. Burial was in the Sisters’ plot in the old cemetery across from South Hill Cemetery. Sister Albert Marie’s name is inscribed on one side of the headstone, the names of the six children are on the reverse side.

One hero of the fire was the orphanage’s pet dog. Rover, who warned the boys sleeping in the dormitory on the floor above him. “We heard Rover barking,” exclaimed young Emile Laval from his hospital bed. “I ran out barefoot.” After the fire, Rover was brought to Holy Family Hospital and went from child to child before he would eat. Another nice note: after the fire, the Sisters, many of whom had frozen their feet, were given free shoes from Howard’s Shoe Store.

Thanks to the Bill Smiley Archives for its assistance in the preparation of this column.


PAssages – February 23, 2009 – Closure of Saskatchewan Penitentiary’s Farm Annex


by Joan Champ

The phasing out of Canada’s six federal prison farms, including the Riverbend Institution at Prince Albert, was announced by the Government of Canada on February 23, 2009. By March of 2011, all penitentiary farms in Canada had been shut down. The main reasons cited by the Conservative government for closing this program were that the farm operations were losing money, and that farming skills weren’t “marketable” once offenders were released into the community.

The Saskatchewan Penitentiary at Prince Albert began operating on May 15, 1911. Riverbend Institution, a minimum-security site where offenders maintained the institution’s farmland, was constructed in 1962. Since the closure of this farm annex, no alternative program at Riverbend, now clustered with the main penitentiary, has been created to take its place. The food once grown or raised on the farm has been replaced with food contracts.

Early warden reports show that, from the day the Saskatchewan Penitentiary opened in 1911, farming was an important part of institutional operations. Warden W. F. Kerr wrote that 80 acres had been cultivated the first year, and that a further 55 acres of land had been cleared of stumps and roots in readiness for seeding the following year. All of the grain crops – oats, wheat, barley, as well as hay – were used for livestock feed. The following year, Kerr reported that the farm had produced a good crop of vegetables, enough to fully supply the prison’s 123 inmates. The piggery, he said, “is yet in its infancy” with 2,114 pounds of pork provided to the prison steward’s kitchen. By the 1920s, 457 acres were under cultivation, root cellars had been built for vegetable storage, and a new piggery had been constructed to accommodate 200 hogs. In 1952, Warden J. W. Everatt reported that a dairy barn had been completed, and a milk house was in operation.

In 1960, the prison’s dairy herd – 82 head – did very well. The yield of dairy products that year is recorded as follows: “77 lbs. of cream were sold to an outside source, 93 quarts of cream and 407 gallons of milk were sold to officers, and 39,095 gallons of milk were supplied to the Steward, while 1,591 gallons of whole milk and 509 gallons of skim milk were used for feed.” The steward got 399 butchered hogs, resulting in 68,238 lbs of meat. The penitentiary’s laying flock of 1,193 birds produced 23,295 dozen eggs. The 640 inmates were served 705 chickens at their Christmas and New Years’ dinners, while the officers purchased 409 birds to take to their homes.

The purpose of the farm at the Saskatchewan Penitentiary was never to train inmates to become farmers. Initially, it was designed primarily to put food on the prison’s tables, and secondarily to ensure that inmates worked hard during their time in prison. After the formal “farm annex” structure was introduced in 1962, farm work was seen to have rehabilitative benefits. As Warden John Norfield told the Prince Albert Daily Herald in 1970, while the farm was a productive one, and helped to make the institution self-supporting, “work on the farm is a healthy, outdoor exercise, and it gets a man accustomed to doing a hard day’s work.”

Prison farms offered a unique environment where inmates learned a variety of technical skills and trades – not only agricultural and horticultural skills like caring for plants, pest management, and planting and harvesting techniques. Many also had the opportunity to learn bookkeeping and accounting, how to operate and repair farm machinery, carpentry, animal husbandry, and milking. Two steers and seven or eight hogs were butchered in the prison’s slaughter house every week. Inmates were trained in modern abattoir methods, making them eligible for this type of work after their release, especially in Prince Albert, home of Burns Foods, one of western Canada’s largest meatpacking operations.

In the early 1970s – a period of peak production at the Riverbend farm annex – farm manager Knute Hemstad, along with 40 to 45 inmates and 11 corrections officers, was growing grains and nearly every type of vegetable on 1,800 acres of land, making it the largest and most diversified prison farm in Canada. “Some farms may have larger single operations, but ours is the largest overall,” Hemstad explained to the Herald. In addition to two combines, two swathers, two balers, a bale wagon, eight tractors, potato planters and harvesters as well as other equipment, the prison owned 165 steers, and 53 dairy cattle – considered to be some of the best milk producers in the province. The prison was self-sufficient as far as milk and eggs were concerned. “We’re holding our own financially and supplying many of our own needs,” Hemstad stated, “which makes the farm very worthwhile.”

As of 2007, according to the Correctional Service of Canada’s website, 108 federal inmates were assigned the Saskatchewan Penitentiary’s farm. They helped to grow a variety of vegetables and field crops, and to run a fully functioning dairy operation and meatpacking plant. The federal government nevertheless viewed its six prison farms as outdated constructs. The decision was made to close them in 2009, presumably to focus on teaching inmates skills and trades that are more relevant to today’s society.


PAssages – January 21, 1967 – Astro (formerly Empress) Hotel Destroyed by Fire


by Joan Champ

In the early hours of a frigid January morning in 1967, a devastating fire at the Astro Hotel on the corner of 1st Avenue West and 11th Street in Prince Albert (site of the present-day A & W) took the lives of two people. Residents of the hotel, William Odgers, 60, and Vern Benham, 48, perished in the fire.

At 7:30 a.m. on that fateful day, the night clerk at the Astro Hotel got up from his desk in the lobby and went back to the kitchen to light the burner on the gas stove. There were only five guests registered in the 52-room, three-story hotel, and they would soon be coming down for breakfast.

Shortly after the clerk returned to his desk in the lobby, he heard a loud explosion in the kitchen. He ran back to discover the kitchen and stairwell in the northwest corner of the hotel engulfed in flames. The inquest, held one month later, determined that “the night clerk had lit the gas burner improperly or that the flame had been snuffed out. Gas apparently leaked throughout the kitchen and was ignited by the pilot light from other gas utilities in the room.” The verdict of the inquest was “unintentional negligence.”

Fire Chief George Slater reported that the entire fire department – 32 firemen – had been called in to fight the blaze, one of the largest in the city’s history. All available fire-fighting equipment, including three pumpers and one ladder truck, was used in an attempt to save the building.

Of the five hotel guests, one hadn’t stayed in the hotel the night before. Another guest had left the hotel before the fire broke out. Of the three guests remaining in the upstairs rooms, David Todd, coughing and almost overcome by smoke, was rescued from a window on the third floor by firemen shortly after they arrived. Mr. Todd said he had attempted to knock on the doors of the other guests’ rooms but had been unable to rouse anyone.

Chief Slater told the PA Daily Herald that firemen were unable to enter and search the rooms in which the two deceased guests were staying due to heavy smoke and flames which ravaged the entire building within two-and-a-half hours. The first body was found in the hallway on the second floor of the hotel at about 9 a.m. The second body was found in the rubble at about 1:15 p.m.

The hotel, originally called the Empress, was built in 1910. With the arrival in Prince Albert of the Canadian Northern Railway in 1906, hotel guest rooms were filled to capacity with construction workers, commercial travellers, and families arriving to settle in the area. The Men-only barroom was a popular spot. A typical Saskatchewan hotel tavern had a long, ornate wooden bar with a large mirror behind it, brass foot rails, and brass spittoons. During Prohibition (1915 to 1924), bars closed down in Saskatchewan hotels. The ornate fixtures were stripped out, and the barrooms became ice cream parlours or other types of business. The Depression of the 1930s saw hotel keepers, like everyone else in Saskatchewan, struggling to get by. Unable to afford renovations or to replace deteriorating furniture and equipment, hotels were generally shabby places. The Second World War brought better economic conditions, and hotels became more inviting.

In 1960, new liquor laws permitted women to drink in bars, and the Empress Hotel – like many other hotels – underwent major renovations. The Herald reported that the hotel’s newly redecorated beverage room boasted “new tables and chairs, washrooms, wall panelling, fibreglass drapes, ample coat hanging facilities, and a new powder room for the ladies.” Hotel manager Hector Demers said that innovations included a beer cooling heat exchanger and a bottle chute to handle empty beer cases.

Wes Walker and his wife Eva purchased the Empress Hotel on April 15, 1964. By December of that year, the lobby and guest rooms had been redecorated, and by the spring of 1966, the Walkers had changed the name to the Astro Motor Hotel, and covered the hotel’s brick exterior with vertical panels to give it a more modern look.

By the 1960s, fewer and fewer people were booking rooms at the older hotels. Motels were the accommodation of choice. The main business at the Astro Hotel – with most of its 52 rooms sitting empty – was food and beverage sales. “We cater to banquets, private parties, staff parties, weddings, clubs, etc. on or off our premises,” the hotel’s December 1964 ad stated. “We have the newly decorated ‘Corvette Room’ with accommodation for up to 150 persons for your special occasion.”

Five Prince Albert service clubs – the Lions, Optimists, Cosmopolitans, Rotarians, and Jaycees –  utilized the meeting rooms at the Astro Hotel. In the fire in 1967, all five clubs lost not only their meeting quarters, they also lost records, banners, flags, trophies, and plaques. The Rotary Club suffered the greatest loss in equipment, but managed to salvage, and later restore, a ceremonial brass bell from the rubble.

After the fire, Wes Walker told the newspaper that he valued of the hotel at $350,000. He said he had some insurance but not enough to cover the entire loss. The charred ruins of the Astro Hotel were demolished on April 25, 1967.

Thanks to the Bill Smiley Archives for its assistance in the preparation of this column.


PAssages – June 11, 1983 – Phil Lederhouse, blind golfer, inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame


by Joan Champ

“You think it’s hard for me to hit that little white ball? Hell, I can hit it fine, but you should see me try to find it!” – Phil Lederhouse

I’m in awe. Phil Lederhouse of Prince Albert, who lost his sight in 1934 at age 19, was a world champion golfer. From the year he started golfing in 1955 until the day he died in 1991 from a heart attack during the Western Canadian Blind Golf Championship in Winnipeg at age 75, Phil dominated in every tournament he played. Lederhouse won 20 Saskatchewan titles, 15 western Canadian titles, 5 Canadian championships, the British Open Blind Golf tourney in 1990 (at age 74), and was runner-up in two world championships. He placed in every tournament he entered. A highlight for Phil was a hole-in-one in 1990 at age 74. Jaw-dropping for duffers like me who struggle to play this difficult game with full eyesight.

Phil had a natural gift, but he could not have achieved what he did independently. As with all blind golfers, he could pretty much set up and swing on his own, but he needed the guidance of a coach who accompanied him to all his tournaments. The coach helped him line up his swings and gauge the wind and elevation. Once on the green, Phil and his coach would pace off the distance together before the coach set up the putting stroke. Hubert Cooke, golf pro at the Prince Albert course, was his first coach. Others who assisted Phil with his golf game included Gordie Coombs, Tome Sherman, Jimmy McCubben, Danny Jutras, Gordon Chipperfield, Kelly Steuart, and Keith Stieb.

Phil’s inspiration to take up blind golfing came from his future wife Ruby, who was also blind. The two met in the late 1940s when Phil was a student in Saskatoon’s CNIB rehabilitation program taught by Ruby. In 1950, after reading an article about blind golf in a magazine, Ruby suggested to Phil that he try the sport. Thus, on the first Sunday in May 1950, Phil and his friend Hubert Cooke went out onto a tee at the Prince Albert golf course and Phil hit his first balls. Within six months, and with Hubert as his coach, Phil travelled to Hamilton, Ontario, where he won the Canadian Blind Golfers’ championship. A few months later, he placed third in the International Blind Golfers’ Championship. He was a natural.

Phil became a bit of a celebrity during his golf career. Sponsored extensively by the Lion’s Club, he travelled widely for tournaments and met many show business and sports stars such as Bob Hope, Jack Parr, Ed Sullivan, Jack Nicklaus, and Gordie Howe. Phil once appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. He was Bob Hope’s guest at a Pebble Beach, California, golf tournament in the 1960s. The story goes that, to raise more money for a charity, Bob and Phil had a match, with Bob picking the venue and Phil picking the time. After Bob chose the Pebble Beach course, Phil decreed that the time of the match would be midnight!

Phil was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame in 1983, and the Prince Albert Sports Hall of Fame in 1989. In 1990, the year before he died, Lederhouse, won three major golf titles: the Saskatchewan Blind Golf championship, the Eastern Canada Blind Golf title, and the British Open Blind Golf championship.

A little bit about Phil Lederhouse’s personal life:

After Phil lost his eyesight, but before he met Ruby, he had made a living cutting firewood in the bush north of Prince Albert. He then worked for M&C Aviation during the Second World War, repairing planes for the BCATP’s Air Training Base in Prince Albert. A 1942 story about 27-year-old Lederhouse in the Daily Herald states that his job with M&C involved sorting tens of thousands of screws – 40 different kinds of them – “a ticklish and vital job in the aircraft industry.” Off the job, Phil was an accomplished musician, playing both guitar and piano by ear.

Phil and Ruby got married on September 13, 1952. The couple ran hospital canteens in Prince Albert for over 60 years, first at the old Victoria Hospital and at the Holy Family Hospital until both buildings closed. The Lederhouses opened a new canteen at the current Victoria Hospital once that building opened. Their children, Grant, Bryan, and Lynda, helped their parents with the canteens from a young age. Grant recalled that people occasionally took advantage of his parents’ visual impairments by either stealing items or short-changing them. For the most part, however, people were honest and supportive. After Phil’s death in 1991, Ruby and Bryan ran the hospital canteen until it closed on January 1, 2014. Ruby Lederhouse passed away on May 12, 2016.

Phil Lederhouse’s golf clubs and cleats are on exhibit at the Prince Albert Historical Museum.

Phil Lederhouse Trophies 29 December 1965

Thanks to the Bill Smiley Archives for its assistance in the preparation of this column.


PAssages: July 27, 1960 – Indigenous people of Saskatchewan get full liquor privileges


Joan Champ

Special to the Herald

NOTE: The term “Indian” is used in this article, as that was the word most commonly used to refer to Indigenous peoples during the period under discussion.

Indigenous people were not allowed to drink in Saskatchewan bars until 1960 – the same year they were granted the right to vote. The push for Indians’ right to purchase and consume alcohol began right after the Second World War.

Several thousand Indigenous men and women fought in the Canadian armed services during both world wars. When they returned from overseas, however, provisions from the out-dated Indian Act prohibited them from voting, holding pow-wows, and drinking alcoholic beverages. They were not even allowed to drink with their former comrades-in-arms at the Legion halls across Canada. In the words of historian James H. Gray, “there was something patently ridiculous in a system which permitted an Indian to risk his life for his country but denied him access to a bottle of beer.”

From 1946 to 1948, a Special Committee of the Senate and House of Commons studied the Indian Act and heard many opinions on the issue of Indian alcohol restrictions in Canada. Joseph Dreaver, president of the Saskatchewan Indian Association and a veteran of both world wars, told the committee that Aboriginal soldiers drank overseas at in military canteens along with their non-Aboriginal comrades, and he “found no difference between the Indian and the white man.”

In 1951, on the recommendations of the Special Committee, the federal government made a number of changes to the Indian Act, including an amendment which permitted Indians to consume intoxicating beverages in licensed premises, providing that their provincial government allowed it. The Saskatchewan government, however, was not prepared to act. Premier Tommy Douglas, a non-drinker himself, was not in favour of drinking whether by whites or Indians. He knew there was a great deal of opposition throughout the province. There was even a divergence of opinion about drinking among Saskatchewan’s Indian leaders. “Local chiefs knew only too well the disastrous effects alcohol had had in the past,” author F. Laurie Barron explains, “and understandably they were not anxious to legitimize or broaden its use.”

Nothing was done until 1960 when Douglas set aside his own reservations on the matter. On July 27, 1960, with the issue of a federal proclamation, Saskatchewan Indians were given the right to purchase and consume alcohol. In the latter instance, they were not allowed to drink liquor on a reserve unless that reserve had been declared “wet” as the result of a referendum.

Hotel owners in Saskatchewan were solidly opposed to opening their drinking establishments to Indians. In May of 1961, Premier Douglas addressed the 30th annual convention of the provincial hotels association. He urged hotelmen to be patient in dealing with problems created by allowing Indians into licensed beverage rooms. “We are having this trouble,’ Douglas said, “because we are reaping the harvest of 50 years or more of making the Indian a second-class citizen. We are going to have to make up our minds whether we are going to keep the Indian bottled up in a sort of Canadian apartheid or whether we are going to let him become a good citizen.” He cautioned, however, that while the Indian had been given equal rights, he had no more right to break the law than the white man. “If he is drunk or causing a disturbance then he should be put out of the premises the same as a white man should. But he should not be put out just because he is an Indian.”

Despite Douglas’ cautionary words, however, incidents of discrimination against Indians in Saskatchewan hotels began to occur. In March of 1968, a member of the Prince Albert Indian and Metis Service Council charged that a group seven had been refused service in the beverage room of the Broadway Hotel on 15th Street East. When they protested to the hotel management, they were told they were sitting in the wrong place and were asked to move. The hotel manager told the Prince Albert Daily Herald that his hotel did not discriminate, pointing out that two of his employees were of native ancestry. Nevertheless, his staff were instructed to ask “untidy” people, whether Indian or white, to sit in one section of the beverage room. In other words, they were segregated.

In January of 1971, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians accused four Saskatchewan hotels of discrimination under the Fair Accommodation Practices Act. The pub in the Broadway Hotel in Prince Albert was again alleged to have refused service to Indians. The hotel manager told the Herald that “the hotel does not have a policy of requiring people to sit in one or the other areas of the beverage room premises because they are Indian or Negro or any other nationality or race.” Nevertheless, the hotel still had an established policy of “separating clean and unclean persons.” FSI Chief David Ahenakew stated that while drinking might not be the most enlightened social endeavor, it was absolutely essential, “especially in such a milieu where defences are often lower and the cutting edge of racial tension more keenly felt,” that scrupulous attention should be paid to the basic civil rights of all Canadian citizens.

This article is adapted from a post in my blog, Railway and Main: Small-Town Saskatchewan Hotels.


PAssages is a weekly column exploring the history of Prince Albert and area written by Joan Champ.


PAssages – July 27, 1960 – “Indians” of Saskatchewan Get Full Liquor Privileges


by Joan Champ

NOTE: The term “Indian” is used in this article, as that was the word most commonly used to refer to Indigenous peoples during the period under discussion.

Indigenous people were not allowed to drink in Saskatchewan bars until 1960 – the same year they were granted the right to vote. The push for Indians’ right to purchase and consume alcohol began right after the Second World War.

Several thousand Indigenous men and women fought in the Canadian armed services during both world wars. When they returned from overseas, however, provisions from the out-dated Indian Act prohibited them from voting, holding pow-wows, and drinking alcoholic beverages. They were not even allowed to drink with their former comrades-in-arms at the Legion halls across Canada. In the words of historian James H. Gray, “there was something patently ridiculous in a system which permitted an Indian to risk his life for his country but denied him access to a bottle of beer.”   

From 1946 to 1948, a Special Committee of the Senate and House of Commons studied the Indian Act and heard many opinions on the issue of Indian alcohol restrictions in Canada. Joseph Dreaver, president of the Saskatchewan Indian Association and a veteran of both world wars, told the committee that Aboriginal soldiers drank overseas at in military canteens along with their non-Aboriginal comrades, and he “found no difference between the Indian and the white man.”

In 1951, on the recommendations of the Special Committee, the federal government made a number of changes to the Indian Act, including an amendment which permitted Indians to consume intoxicating beverages in licensed premises, providing that their provincial government allowed it. The Saskatchewan government, however, was not prepared to act. Premier Tommy Douglas, a non-drinker himself, was not in favour of drinking whether by whites or Indians. He knew there was a great deal of opposition throughout the province. There was even a divergence of opinion about drinking among Saskatchewan’s Indian leaders. “Local chiefs knew only too well the disastrous effects alcohol had had in the past,” author F. Laurie Barron explains, “and understandably they were not anxious to legitimize or broaden its use.”

Nothing was done until 1960 when Douglas set aside his own reservations on the matter. On July 27, 1960, with the issue of a federal proclamation, Saskatchewan Indians were given the right to purchase and consume alcohol. In the latter instance, they were not allowed to drink liquor on a reserve unless that reserve had been declared “wet” as the result of a referendum.

Hotel owners in Saskatchewan were solidly opposed to opening their drinking establishments to Indians. In May of 1961, Premier Douglas addressed the 30th annual convention of the provincial hotels association. He urged hotelmen to be patient in dealing with problems created by allowing Indians into licensed beverage rooms. “We are having this trouble,’ Douglas said, “because we are reaping the harvest of 50 years or more of making the Indian a second-class citizen. We are going to have to make up our minds whether we are going to keep the Indian bottled up in a sort of Canadian apartheid or whether we are going to let him become a good citizen.” He cautioned, however, that while the Indian had been given equal rights, he had no more right to break the law than the white man. “If he is drunk or causing a disturbance then he should be put out of the premises the same as a white man should. But he should not be put out just because he is an Indian.”

Despite Douglas’ cautionary words, however, incidents of discrimination against Indians in Saskatchewan hotels began to occur. In March of 1968, a member of the Prince Albert Indian and Metis Service Council charged that a group seven had been refused service in the beverage room of the Broadway Hotel on 15th Street East. When they protested to the hotel management, they were told they were sitting in the wrong place and were asked to move. The hotel manager told the Prince Albert Daily Herald that his hotel did not discriminate, pointing out that two of his employees were of native ancestry. Nevertheless, his staff were instructed to ask “untidy” people, whether Indian or white, to sit in one section of the beverage room. In other words, they were segregated.

In January of 1971, the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians accused four Saskatchewan hotels of discrimination under the Fair Accommodation Practices Act. The pub in the Broadway Hotel in Prince Albert was again alleged to have refused service to Indians. The hotel manager told the Herald that “the hotel does not have a policy of requiring people to sit in one or the other areas of the beverage room premises because they are Indian or Negro or any other nationality or race.” Nevertheless, the hotel still had an established policy of “separating clean and unclean persons.” FSI Chief David Ahenakew stated that while drinking might not be the most enlightened social endeavor, it was absolutely essential, “especially in such a milieu where defences are often lower and the cutting edge of racial tension more keenly felt,” that scrupulous attention should be paid to the basic civil rights of all Canadian citizens.

This article is adapted from a post in my blog, Railway and Main: Small-Town Saskatchewan Hotels.


PAssages – January 7, 1930 – Official Opening of the Prince Albert Sanatorium


by Joan Champ

Saskatchewan’s third and largest sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis was officially opened on the north side of the river in Prince Albert on January 6, 1930. Five years later, in October 1936, the Prince Albert Daily Herald reported that 7,591 people had been treated or examined at the local institution in an effort to combat the spread of the disease.

Tuberculosis is a contagious infection that usually attacks the lungs. During the early 1900s, tuberculosis, or “consumption” as it was then called, was a leading cause of death in North America. In Saskatchewan, TB was epidemic among Indigenous peoples, and was the most common cause of death in non-Indigenous adults between the ages of 20 and 25. Spread by impure milk, drinking cups, and breathing in germs in overcrowded homes, the “white plague” destroyed many families before it came under control in the 1950s.

Like most of the sanatoria that were established in Canada during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Prince Albert institution was designed to look like a European spa. Built among the pines near what is now Little Red Park, the three-story, chalet-like main building could originally accommodate 225 patients. Over the years, its capacity grew; it had 270 to 280 patients daily by the early 1950s.

The Prince Albert sanatorium offered “open air” treatment, bed rest, and nourishing foods to its patients. Very few people could afford to pay to stay at a sanatorium for months at a time. Therefore, in 1929, the Government of Saskatchewan passed a bill to provide free treatment for people suffering from tuberculosis. Saskatchewan was the first place in North America to provide free treatment for the disease – an important stepping stone towards Medicare.

While the province’s three sanatoria at Fort Qu’Appelle, Saskatoon, and Prince Albert received public funding, the Saskatchewan’s Anti-Tuberculosis League provided significant financial support for the fight against the disease. Fundraising was also done by the Associated Canadian Travellers (ACT). This group sponsored “Amateur Hour” radio shows, raising $813,000 between 1934 and 1955 to combat tuberculosis in Saskatchewan.

Dr. Robert W. Kirkby was superintendent of the “San” from the time it opened until it closed in 1961. Dr. Kirkby had a staff of 150, including four doctors. There was a school in the sanatorium, accommodating children from grades one to twelve. There was also a crafts instructor for adult patients. In addition to treating sick patients, the sanatorium conducted preventative work in the community, carrying on clinics and mass X-ray surveys for TB throughout the province.

Death rates from tuberculosis were ten times higher among Saskatchewan’s Indigenous people than among non-Indigenous residents. Despite that fact, historian Maureen Lux writes that Aboriginal people “were not generally accepted for treatment” in the province’s three sanatoria. She explains in her book, Separate Beds (2016), that the publicly funded provincial institutions provided free treatment for “taxpayers” only. If beds were available, the Department of Indian Affairs might be permitted to purchase space for treatment. The Prince Albert Sanatorium admitted its first two Indigenous patients in 1935 – five years after it opened. An average of 44 Indigenous patients were admitted during the 1940s, and by the early 1950s, an average of 120 Indigenous patients had beds at the Prince Albert institution. Lux asserts that these increases in Aboriginal admissions reflected the declining need for sanatorium beds by the non-Indigenous people. In 1953, the superintendent of nurses observed that the PA San was filled with capacity with 270 to 280 patients daily, “a little less than one quarter of these being white people, which is further proof that we are winning our battle against tuberculosis among the whites.” The other three quarters were Aboriginal.

The Prince Albert Sanatorium was closed in May 1961 over the objections of the people of the city. Many could not understand why the Ministry of Health and the Saskatchewan Anti-Tuberculosis League would choose to close the PA San over its two sister institutions when it was the most suitable location for treating northern residents. Nevertheless, the decision was made to transfer the Prince Albert patients – the majority of whom were Indigenous people from northern Saskatchewan – to the sanatorium at Fort Qu’Appelle, making it even more difficult for their family members to visit them.

The sanatorium building was reused as North Park Centre, the Saskatchewan Training School for the mentally handicapped, from July 1961 until it was closed permanently on February 28, 1988. The building was torn down in 1990, although the powerhouse was left standing and was used as a performing arts theatre for a few years. It has since been razed as well.

Thanks to the Bill Smiley Archives for its assistance in preparing this column.


PAssages – March 20, 1950: Part Two – A Reporter’s Encounter with Nan Dorland, Prospector


by Joan Champ

Part Two:

In “Part One” last week, I introduced Nan Dorland, the only active woman prospector in Saskatchewan in 1950. An actress turned writer turned prospector from New York City via northern Ontario, Nan – or “Mrs. Morenus” – was interviewed by the Prince Albert Daily Herald on March 20, 1950. She was passing through Prince Albert with her partner, John Albrecht, a long-time Saskatchewan trapper and prospector. The twosome told the Herald that they were flying to Regina and Toronto to check out their find of base metal from their northern stake. The purpose of their journey had a more urgent purpose, however. Unbeknownst to the reporter, Nan was four months pregnant.

In the summer of 1948, Nan Dorland Morenus arrived in La Ronge, Saskatchewan, to take a prospector’s course. Floyd Glass, a Prince Albert pilot, flew Nan and a man – who could have been her husband, Richard Morenus – up to an area west of Stony Rapids. Glass provides an account of Nan’s time in Saskatchewan in “A Northern Romance,” his contribution to the book, Gold and Other Stories (1986). He recalls that when he flew in a few months later to see if the couple was ready to come out, the man, likely Morenus, ran down to the plane. “He was going out,” Glass recounts. “He said as far as he was concerned he didn’t know what she was going to do, but he thought she was staying.” When Glass went up to talk to Nan, he discovered that “there was no way she was going out. She was up there to find a uranium mine. That’s all there was to it.”

(Nan and Richard Morenus must have divorced shortly after that. Genealogical records show that Richard married for the fifth time on October 1, 1948 in Minnesota.)

Nan gave Glass some money to pick up a dog team and sleigh for her. He brought her six dogs as well as a net so she could catch fish for the dogs. He thought Nan didn’t know what she was in for, but “she thought everything was fine.”

The first week of December 1948, Nan arrived by dog team at Stony Rapids. It was there, later that winter, that she met 50-year-old John Albrecht. The Herald reporter asserts that uranium “was the cause of the Morenus-Albrecht partnership.” Nan wanted to stake claims in the same area that Albrecht first found uranium earlier that year. Floyd Glass flew the two of them up to a lake on the border of the Northwest Territories and was told to come back in the spring.

Nan and John spent just over a year together in northern Saskatchewan. Nan told the Herald she “finds Northern Saskatchewan a ‘wonderful place’ and her chosen work ‘just an enormous amount of fun’.” In response to the reporter’s question about who did the housework, Albrecht replied tersely, “Whoever gets back first gets supper ready.”

Nan had brought her typewriter along, planning to write about prospecting in the north. Glass recalls that she had, indeed sold a couple of stories. The few times he dropped in on Nan and John’s camp, she gave him some magazine articles to take down in the mail. (I haven’t yet located any stories published by Nan Dorland or Nan Morenus or Nan Albrecht since her 1947 article in Maclean’s.)

Nan and John travelled to Toronto in March 1950, shortly after Nan discovered she was pregnant. They were married there on April 29, 1950. Nan gave birth to their son, John Ernest Albrecht, on August 18, 1950, in Stouffville, just north of Toronto. Seventeen days later, on September 3rd, Nan died in Toronto from complications due to childbirth. She was 38 years old.

John Albrecht, no doubt filled with grief, returned to northern Saskatchewan where he continued trapping and prospecting. He moved to Vancouver in 1978, where he died in 1991 at age 93. John and Nan’s son was subsequently raised by Nan’s Danke relatives in California; he died there in December 2015.

NOTE: Richard Morenus (1894-1968) was a fraud. After Nan’s death, Richard published his one and only book, Crazy White Man, in 1952. In this book, he describes himself as a New York businessman who took to the northern Ontario bush for six years – on his own – to shed his ulcers. Nan is left completely out of the story. Morenus subsequently had many speaking engagements about his bush adventures. A New York Times book review states, “Respect for Mr. Morenus’ courage and hardihood grows with every page we read.” Morenus’ article, “From Broadway to the Bush,” in Maclean’s, September 1, 1946, provides a more truthful version of the story. Nan was an equal partner – possibly more – in their shared wilderness experience. For example, when Richard asked Nan if she minded all the hard work, he quotes her as saying, “This is the bush, and I love it. This is fun. Now come on, we’ll just have time to get in the last of that red pine we sawed up. That mallard I shot is in the oven. We’re having it for supper, and can you get that on 6th Avenue?” He gushes, “What a gal!”

Nan and Richard Morenus in northern Ontario, 1946.


PAssages – March 20, 1950: Part One – A Reporter’s Encounter with Nan Dorland, Prospector


by Joan Champ

Part One:

In the late winter of 1950, an unnamed reporter from the Prince Albert Daily Herald had a fortuitous encounter with Saskatchewan’s only active woman prospector. I say “fortuitous” because Nan (Evangeline Annette) Danke Dorland Morenus Albrecht, “an attractive redhead,” has an interesting life story – one that I have only begun to explore. This is part one of my findings.

On Monday, March 20, 1950, Nan Dorland, an actress turned writer turned prospector from New York City via northern Ontario, referred to as “Mrs. Morenus,” was passing through Prince Albert with her partner, John Albrecht. A long-time trapper and prospector, Albrecht had co-discovered uranium at Black Lake, Saskatchewan, in 1948. Over the preceding year and a half, the twosome had staked claims north of Stony Rapids, 900 kilometres north of Prince Albert on a lake bordering the Northwest Territories. They told the Herald that their recent find of base metal was of sufficient importance to warrant them flying to Regina and Toronto. The purpose of their journey had a more urgent purpose, however. Unbeknownst to the reporter, Nan, 38 years old, was four months pregnant.

Born Evangeline Annette Danke on October 31, 1911 in Buffalo, New York, Nan Dorland pursued a career in stage and radio serial acting in New York City throughout the 1930s. It was there that she met her first husband, Richard Morenus, a writer and director for network radio programs. They married on October 15, 1936.

In 1939, Nan underwent emergency surgery for a perforated ulcer. The stress of producing daily radio shows had caused her illness: “My wife and I had been stop-watch slaves in New York for more than 10 years, I as writer/director of network programs, she as one of the more popular actresses who suffer daily in serials before the microphones,” Richard Morenus wrote in September 1, 1946 article for Maclean’s magazine. “The big red hand of the studio clock had bound us until we were accountable to it for every one of its measured minutes. Its gifts were liberal, but the cost was great in ruined digestions, tired bodies, and nerves as taut as piano wires. Something had to snap. It had been Nan…”

Nan and Richard Morenus made decision to quit their jobs, leave the New York City, and move to Canada’s bush country in northern Ontario. They bought an isolated seven-acre island north of Sioux Lookout and lived there for six years. Nan loved it. “This isn’t half as bad as trying to get a part on Broadway, or auditioning for a new radio show,” Richard quoted her as saying in his Maclean’s article. “That’s work. This is the bush, and I love it. This is fun.” She learned to hunt and trap from Indigenous people in the area. She learned how to skin animals, prepare meat, fix snowshoes, and travel by dog team. Richard talked of returning to New York for a visit, but Nan would have no part of it. She said: “My moccasins are soft on my feet when I walk in the woods. I’d miss the canoe. My dog team would be lonesome if I should leave them. I have more freedom than anyone else in the world. And where is there anything so beautiful. Go back? Go back to what? I have nothing to go back to. I’m where I belong now. I’m home!”

Nan learned another skill while in northern Ontario – prospecting. In her Maclean’s article, “The Woman’s Bushed!” published on August 15, 1947, she tells the story of her 150-mile canoe trip with a trapper/prospector named “Joe” in search of a rumoured high-grade mineral vein at Spirit Lake north of Sioux Lookout. Only one month earlier, Nan had been suffering from a serious illness with had confined her to a hospital bed for several months. Now, she was shoving off on a rigorous adventure that involved rapids and at least twenty portages. Nevertheless, she said that with demands of bush life, “I was coming to life again.” When Joe and Nan ended their prospecting venture without making a find, she was disappointed. “I had caught a severe case of prospecting fever which inscrutable Spirit Lake had intensified,” she wrote in her Maclean’s article. “The stern, inhospitable region fascinated me and some day I meant to return, come hell, higher water or more beavers.”

Nan was good to her word, although it wouldn’t be to Ontario that she returned. She had heard about uranium discoveries in northern Saskatchewan.

Next week – Part Two: Nan’s adventures in northern Saskatchewan


PAssages – May 1947 – Lund’s Wildlife exhibit opens on River Street


by Joan Champ

Sometimes I miss seeing the long white building stretched out along the riverbank on River Street – the words “LUND WILD LIFE EXHIBIT” painted on the side facing the river. Not because it was attractive, because it wasn’t, but because it was such an iconic fixture in Prince Albert. It was there for 50 years.

I only went inside once, with my sister. It was filled with mounted animal specimens, most of them native to Saskatchewan. Everything from a moose, to a bison, to bears, to all kinds of deer, to a shrew. For some reason, that tiny shew impressed my sister and me the most. All the stuffed creatures were placed in dioramas, surrounded by trees and ferns and moss to give them a “natural” setting.

Lund’s Wildlife Exhibit was a private museum assembled by taxidermist and collector Frank F. Lund. Born in Sackville, Nova Scotia, Lund came to Prince Albert in 1910. Over the years, he practiced taxidermy at 839 4th Street East, trapping and hunting to build his collection. “For the buffalo,” his daughter-in-law later recounted, “he went to Wainwright, Alberta, to select the nicest one, and it took him five days to choose it.” Lund said his goal with taxidermy was not to make money; rather, he wanted to promote Canada’s pride in its wildlife.

In the 1920s and ‘30s, mounted animal displays were all the rage. Lund showed his massive exhibits at fairs in Prince Albert, Saskatoon and Regina, and for sevral years at the Calgary Stampede. He turned down offers to sell his exhibits to several American attractions. He wanted to keep them for Canadians.

From 1936 to 1938, Lund’s wildlife exhibit was on display at Waskesiu under the auspices of the national park. Then, in April of 1938, the park announced that it no longer wanted Lund’s exhibit at Waskesiu. Lund’s exhibit was given one final run in the national park.

On June 30, 1938, the Prince Albert Daily Herald described Lund’s show, “A Hunter’s Paradise,” seen by hundreds of Waskesiu visitors that summer. “The striking results of the attack of a timber wolf on its hamstrung prey is visibly portrayed in one set-up. A black timber wolf, as it stands and calls to the pack, is another addition,” the paper stated. “One curiosity that catches any observer’s eye is the white red squirrel. Mr. Lund is proud to own the albino red squirrel, for it is the first one he as ever seen or heard of.”

Evicted from the national park, Lund’s exhibit was put into storage in Prince Albert for several years. Unfortunately, Frank Lund passed away in 1941 before a permanent home was found for his life’s work.

In 1947, Franks’ son Gordon arranged with the Government of Saskatchewan and the City of Prince Albert to house Lund’s Wildlife Exhibit in a World War II building that the City moved across the river from the airport. The 24-foot by 240-foot structure was placed in the park on the north side of River Street, west of the present-day museum.

Hon. J. H. Sturdy, Minister of Reconstruction and Rehabilitation, acknowledging complaints that the WWII airport building would be an eyesore on the riverbank, said that he intended to ensure that it would not be “unsightly.” The building was repainted white and green, and an attractive entrance was built. The City was to maintain the professionally landscaped grounds, supply light and water to the building, and not to collect taxes on it. Lund’s Wildlife Exhibit opened in May 1947, charging 25 cents admission for adults and 10 cents for children, with no charge for school tours.

After Gordon Lund passed away in 1966, his widow, Mary, their children Marny and Frank, and Gordon’s siblings, Norman and Ada, worked together to keep Lund’s Wildlife Exhibit in operation. It remained a unique presence on Prince Albert’s riverbank from 1947 until 1996, when, after 49 years, it had to close. The old WWII building had deteriorated to the point that it could no longer protect the furry exhibits. The roof leaked and the floors were rotting. In addition, the Lund family admitted that the number of visitors had declined steadily over the past few years. Mounted animal displays had fallen out of favour.

In 1996, the River Street building was demolished and Mary Lund moved the wildlife exhibits to Seaworld Mall in Nanaimo, BC. Shortly afterwards, she had them all moved into storage, saying the arrangements with the mall were unsatisfactory. Four truckloads of Lund exhibits eventually made their way back to storage in Prince Albert thanks to Mayor Greg Dionne. They enjoyed a brief revival at Gateway Mall where they were put on display in September 2016.

Thanks to the Bill Smiley Archives for its assistance in the preparation of this column.


PAssages – June 30, 1938 – PA Fur Company to Make 1,000 Buffalo Coats


by Joan Champ

“Will Make 50 to 60 Buffalo Coats Per Week; One Thousand Ordered From P. A. Fur by Burns & Co.” This headline in the June 30, 1938 issue of the Prince Albert Daily Herald announced that the Prince Albert Fur Company was the successful bidder on a contract with Burns and Company Ltd. to make 1,000 buffalo coats.

I was surprised to read this. I have seen several buffalo, or bison-hide, coats in museums, including the Prince Albert Historical Museum. I knew that the North West Mounted Police (NWMP), later the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), had worn buffalo coats from the 1870s until about 1900, when plains bison had largely died out. I had no idea they were still being manufactured in the 1930s, so I decided to do some digging.

It turns out that the manufacture of buffalo coats was revived in the 1930s, thanks to the Canadian government. In 1909, the government had created in Buffalo National Park near Wainwright, Alberta, for the express purpose of protecting and regenerating the almost extinct plains bison. The original herd – probably the last in existence at the time – was made up of about 700 bison. By 1933, that herd numbered in the tens of thousands.

As the animal numbers outgrew the national park’s limited space, the government started transferring bison to other parks, including Wood Buffalo National Park in northeastern Alberta. The national parks also began an annual slaughtering program. During the 1930s, about 1,000 bison were killed in an annual cull, with their meat going to processing plants such as Burns and Company in Prince Albert.

As bison hides accumulated, Burns in turn contracted the PA Fur Company to make the buffalo coats. Burns then distributed the coats to retail outlets and to the RCMP and city police forces across Canada during the 1930s.

The PA Fur Company, located at 806 Central Avenue, was in business from 1929 to 1945. It had turned out 300 coats for the fall 1936 season, but the 1938 contract with Burns for 1,000 coats meant expansion. That year, the proprietor of the fur company, A. H. Sereda, informed the Herald that he would be hiring fifteen more employees, increasing his staff from five to twenty, to meet the demands of the new Burns contract.

Sereda stated that the manufacture of buffalo coats had undergone a significant improvement since the days of the NWMP, thanks to a tanning process utilized by the North Battleford Tannery “for the exclusive use of the Prince Albert Fur Company.” Known as “Chrome All-Weather-Proof Tanning,” this process made the buffalo coats three to five pounds lighter than the former coats, and rendered them weather proof and moth proof.

The return of the buffalo coat was welcomed by the RCMP for practical – and possibly nostalgic – reasons. “An interesting feature of the year,” the RCMP Commissioner’s Report for 1931 states, “has been the return to the force of the old-time buffalo coat for winter use, this having been rendered possible through the courtesy of the National Parks Branch of the Department of the Interior, which reserved for us seven hundred skins.”

The 1930s version of the buffalo coat closely resembled the pattern used by the North West Mounted Police. It had a large roll collar to protect the wearer’s neck. Four large leather straps down the front provided closure, each secured with two large regimental brass buttons.

The romanticism of the buffalo coats eventually wore off for the RCMP, however. While they were unquestionably warm, they were also incredibly heavy and cumbersome due to their bulk. The RCMP gradually phased out buffalo coats for winter wear, finally replacing them with greatcoats in 1961.

As a side note, it is interesting that Burns had a contract with the government to kill bison during the 1930s. Burns, which operated a large plant on the corner of Fifteenth Street West and Sixth Avenue West in Prince Albert from 1917 to 1976, normally processed meat from cattle and hogs raised in northern Saskatchewan. During the Great Depression years, bison meat must have supplemented the plant’s regular cattle and hog business.

Thanks to the Bill Smiley Archives for its assistance in the preparation of this column.


PAssages – 1970s – Prince Albert Youth Council’s Rec Centre Dances


by Joan Champ

One of the best things Prince Albert had to offer to high school students during the late 1960s and early 1970s were the city-wide teen dances held at the downtown Recreation Centre (now the Margo Fournier Centre). These dances were organized by the Prince Albert Youth Council, an arm of the City’s recreation department. Of course, there were high school dances, but the Rec Centre dances were something special – mainly because of the quality of bands that were brought in to play at them.

Teen dances were a bit of a tradition in Prince Albert. During the 1950s, for example, six teen clubs hosted Friday night dances throughout the city. These clubs operated under the guidance of the city’s recreation director. Originally, each club tried to hold at least one dance a month which often led to two and sometimes three dances on one night, diluting attendance at each dance. In March of 1956, the central PA Teen Council drew up a new schedule which gave each teen club one dance every six weeks. In the spring of that year, the Teen Council began hosting city-wide dances.

The PA Youth Council started from scratch in 1967 after a youth rally – again under the stewardship of the City’s recreation director, who at this time was Len Cantin. The Youth Council offered a variety of activities and programs, including coffee houses, youth talent shows, an annual Monte Carlo night, and the ever-popular teen dances.

1969 to 1971 were busy and successful years for the Youth Council. The organization, with over 25 members, helped out with community ventures such as the Winter Festival and the fundraising campaign for the new arena (now the Art Hauser Centre). Money raised by the Youth Council also went to purchase items such as a stage and public-address system for the Recreation Centre, and to support local organizations such as PA Minor Fastball League, the United Appeal, and the Canadian Legion.

Most impressive, however, were the many well-known bands from across Canada that the PA Youth Council brought in to play at their dances. Young people from across the city flocked to these events. I remember the excitement of hearing Kenny Shield’s first band, Witness Inc. (later Streetheart), Lighthouse, The 49th Parallel, Chilliwack – the impressive list of talent goes on. These dances were not without problems, however – problems which eventually led to the end of this great form of entertainment for Prince Albert’s young people.

Drinking by teenagers, at or before dances, was nothing new in Prince Albert. Back in 1956, for example, the Teen Council attempted several strategies to curb teen drinking, including the issuing of membership cards which had to be presented for admission to the dances. “This will prevent the non-members of the clubs from attending the dance because it seems they are the ones causing the most trouble,” the Council stated.

The PA Youth Council also had to contend with drinking at its Rec Centre dances. “The problem of drinking and drugs still hasn’t been completely eliminated at our dances but we are still trying,” a Council representative reported in the Prince Albert Daily Herald in November 1969. Fights inside and outside the Rec Centre dances were a regular occurrence as I recall. It was scary at times. “We would like to ask the teens of PA not to abuse the Recreation Centre and its facilities in any way whatsoever,” the same representative wrote in the Herald a month later. “Littering and rough play is unnecessary in or outside the building. The Recreation Centre is there for us – let’s not abuse it.”

In March of 1970, Len Cantin reported to City Council that, by the beginning of 1969, “an increasing, unacceptable number of young people were attending dances under the influence of alcohol and that a few were causing disturbances by fighting and the use of foul language.”  He related that the Youth Council, through talks with the Recreation Centre staff and City police, was determined to rectify the situation. The Council advertised in the high schools that anyone under the influence of alcohol would not be allowed to enter the dances. The introduction of the new admission system at the entrance to the Rec Centre was a big change which caught everyone’s attention – as did the presence of City police officers hired to supervise the dances. The Youth Council had worked hard to achieve its goal of zero-tolerance for substance abuse at the dances, Cantin reported. “Although the problem has not been totally eliminated,” he said, “there has been a noticeable improvement and the youth council intends to continue with its present actions in this area and hopefully develop other methods to further improve the situation.”

The Rec Centre dances ended in the mid-1970s, however, due no doubt to the proverbial actions of the few that spoil things for the many.


This column was prepared with the assistance of the Bill Smiley Archives

PAssages – 1970s – Unfair High School Dress Code for Girls


by Joan Champ

As long as there have been school dress codes, students have rebelled against them. I was part of a group of young female students who challenged my high school’s dress code back in the early 1970s. Back then, girls attending Prince Albert Technical High School (now Carlton Comprehensive), were not allowed to wear pants, trousers, jeans, or slacks of any kind to school. It was dresses or skirts and blouses only.

In those days when miniskirts were all the rage – and the shorter, the better – the whole no-pants rule was, quite frankly, absurd. Miniskirts, which had first appeared in the 1960s thanks to British designer Mary Quant, had, by the early 1970s, reached all-time popularity. It is amazing our parents let us out of our houses in the mornings, our skirts were so short. I remember on at least one occasion wearing one of my mother’s blouses as a dress to school. So, the whole no-pants dress code for girls made little sense. School administrators might have considered us much more presentable – and or at least less distracting – if we had been allowed to wear pants.

If we had lived in California or somewhere warm, the no-pants rule would have been easier to deal with. But at PA Tech, smack-dab in the middle of the frozen north, no matter how cold it was outside, girls were expected to show up for class wearing dresses or skirts. This led to awkward situations. Because many of us walked to school, we would wear pants under our skirts to fend off frostbite, then rush to the washrooms to change before heading to class. When girls went outside onto the “smokers’ step” – we were allowed to smoke at school in designated areas – they often came back into the school building with half-frozen legs. Pantyhose and tights did little to protect exposed legs from the bitter cold.

So, in the late fall of 1969, I joined a group of girls who took on the administration over its rule that said girls could only wear skirts and dresses to school and never pants. As I was a new girl at Tech and only in Grade 10 at the time, I don’t know how the plan was hatched to fight the dress code. I imagine that a few of the older girls met secretly to decide on the day of action. Word was then spread through whispers in the hallways (this was long before cell phones and social media) that all the girls, as a unified group, were going to wear pants to school on the specified day. At that time, “pants” meant a pantsuit or a matching jacket-and-slacks outfit. We weren’t asking to wear jeans to school – even though the boys could wear jeans.

I will never forget how nervous I felt going to school in pants instead of a dress on the day of the protest. Even more memorable was the sense of empowerment I felt when I showed up and saw lots of other girls wearing pants. Solidarity! Of course, we were all promptly sent home by the school administrators to change our clothes. On January 16, 1970 in the “Teen Talk” section of the Prince Albert Daily Herald, Tech’s column stated that for the past several weeks there had been meetings between the school staff members and student representatives about the question of girls wearing slacks to school. “The [students’] proposition was refused,” the student columnist wrote, “and the girls will continue to wear dresses.”

The following year, there was another dress-code protest at Tech, but again to no avail. It wasn’t until my final year of high school – 1971-1972 – that girls could finally wear pants to school. Of course, we still wore short skirts, but it was nice to finally have more wardrobe options – especially in the winter! It wasn’t until a few years later that girls were allowed to wear jeans to school, while all along boys had been wearing jeans.


PAssages – September 1956 – Water Treatment Plant Begins Operations


by Joan Champ

“I always took the river for granted,” Prince Albert’s Mayor Greg Dionne said in July on the anniversary of the Husky oil spill. “I won’t do that again.” I will take this one step further and say that I will never take Prince Albert’s Water Treatment Plant for granted. Every time I turn on the tap in our home, I feel truly grateful for the safe, clean water filling my glass. As Andy Busse, manager of the water treatment plant, said in an interview with the Daily Herald on June 28th, “Water is a life source. You can’t go without it.”

Our water has not always been safe. The North Saskatchewan River, the city’s only raw water source, has carried everything from organic material to industrial waste to oil spills through our city. Fortunately, Prince Albert has a state-of-the-art water treatment plant which was built in 1956, upgraded in 1986 and again in 2011. For an in-depth tour of the Water Treatment Plant that takes you through the steps to process our water from in-take at the river until it reaches our taps, see the City of Prince Albert’s excellent video on YouTube.

Here is a very brief history of our city’s water woes.

Organic Matter

“Some citizens claim they don’t know after taking a bath whether they’ve really had one or not, while others claim the rusty looking fluid makes tea taste unwholesome.” – Prince Albert Daily Herald, April 26, 1932

I remember back in the 1970s, Prince Albertans occasionally noticed their water smelled or tasted a little different. In the spring, melting snow and ice pushed sediment and organic material into the river. We were always assured by city officials that, despite the bad odor, the water was safe to drink. In early September of 1971, a “sloughy” taste in the city’s water supply prompted some citizens to seek fresh water at the natural springs north of the city. The City Engineer informed people that activated carbon was being added to the water to combat the bad taste and odor which he said was probably from “some form of vegetation that got in the river from a source upstream.”

Prince Albert residents won’t soon forget the boil-water advisory that started in early February of 2012 after harmful microorganisms were found in the public water system. The problem was caused by equipment failure at the city’s water treatment plant. The boil-water order lasted for six weeks, and was lifted in mid-March.

Industrial Waste

“Regardless of the greatness in size or influence attributed to these [Edmonton] industries, it is hardly conceivable that they intend to continue practices jeopardizing the health of an entire city.” – Prince Albert Daily Herald editorial, February 17, 1954

The discovery of crude oil at Leduc, Alberta, in 1950 had a long-term impact on the water quality of the North Saskatchewan River. Edmonton became a petroleum production centre, with oil refineries, petrochemical plants, and oil pipelines built on or near the river – the same river that provided drinking water to many communities downstream. The Canadian Chemical Company, for example, was built on Edmonton’s riverbank in 1951-1952. This plant produced acetate and other petrochemicals for the production of plastics, synthetic yarns, and similar products. It was not long before the drinking water in Prince Albert became polluted by industrial waste. 

In late 1953, Prince Albert residents became increasingly alarmed by the strange smell and taste of their drinking water. In February 1954, the National Research Council reported that samples taken from the city’s river water contained at least six chemicals, including methanol, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and crotoaldehyde. Similar chemicals were also found in the water taken from the waste pipe at the Canadian Chemical Company’s plant in Edmonton.

Little was known at that time about the toxicity of these chemicals. Fear rippled through the city. “Is it a hazard or is it not a hazard – that’s my chief concern,” said Alderman Allan Barsky to City Council on February 20, 1954. “[S]ince we now know that medical authorities are not too sure if this water contamination is injurious to health or not,” stated Alderman D. G. Steuart on March 16, “it’s a pretty serious thing for our 17,000 to 18,000 citizens’ health.” To make matters worse, Prince Albert’s water supply became polluted by Edmonton’s sewage the following year.

Over the next two years, strong pressure was exerted at all governing levels by Prince Albert officials. Early in 1956, John G. Diefenbaker, Member of Parliament for Prince Albert, introduced a bill in the House of Commons to provide for severe penalties under the Criminal Code for pollution by industrial wastes and chemicals. “That the city of Prince Albert and other communities along this God-given river should be subjected to a policy of industrial selfishness on the part of certain industries in the Edmonton area continuing to dump wastes into the river is abominable,” he said. Prime Minister St. Laurent’s government defeated Diefenbaker’s bill.

Measures were eventually taken in Alberta to address the water safety issue. In 1956, the Canadian Chemical Plant constructed special tanks for its waste water, and the City of Edmonton constructed a large sewage disposal plant. In addition, by the end of that year, Prince Albert’s own water treatment plant was in operation.

That was not the end of industrial wastes contaminating Prince Albert’s drinking water, however. In March of 1970, for example, city crews drained, cleaned and refilled the 2.5-million-gallon reservoir on the city’s west hill to remove foul-tasting water that had been polluted by substances thought to have originated from a chemical or petroleum plant upstream.

Oil Spills

The Husky oil spill of July 20, 2016 is fresh in the minds of Prince Albert residents. An estimated 200,000 litres on oil leached into the North Saskatchewan River near Maidstone, Saskatchewan, causing the Prince Albert to shut down its water intake for almost two months. During that period, water was supplied to the city by a 30-kilometre pipeline to the South Saskatchewan River.

A much smaller oil spill had threatened Prince Albert’s water supply in October of 1960. About 10,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into the North Saskatchewan River fifteen miles upstream from Edmonton, caused by a broken pipeline belonging to Imperial Oil. Much of that oil ended up on the riverbanks during its journey downstream from Edmonton. Precautionary measures were taken in Prince Albert just the same. River water was drawn only from the deep, mid-stream intakes, and activated carbon eliminated any bad taste or odor that might have occurred in the water.

Thanks to the Bill Smiley Archives for its assistance in the preparation of this column.


PAssages – Summer of 1971 – Cool Aid for Transient Youth


by Joan Champ

Did you know that during the summer of 1971, Prince Albert had a youth hostel and drop-in centre? It was called Cool Aid and it served both local and transient youth. In the summer months of the early 1970s, hundreds of thousands of young people hitchhiked along the highways of Canada. In 1970 alone, the federal government estimated that between 150,000 to 200,000 hitchhikers – mainly white, middle-class students – travelled the roads.

Prince Albert was off the main route along the Trans-Canada Highway, but the Prince Albert Daily Herald reported on August 10, 1971 that many hitchhikers were passing through the area. By that time, Cool Aid had been established at 17 River Street West and was serving young transients from across Canada, and from as far away as California. Despite local fears of drop-outs, drugs, dirtiness and disease, the transients reportedly caused no trouble in Prince Albert. “Everything has been fine here all summer,” Police Chief Reg Brooman told the Herald. “We’ve had no problems with travelling youth.” This was due, in large part, to the services provided by Cool Aid.

Cool Aid operated with grant funding of $2,775 from the federal government and $2,000 from the City of Prince Albert. Donations were received from local supporters, including $250 from Prince Albert Pulp Company, and $200 from Sick’s Bohemian Brewery. At the end of August, the centre reported that the money had been spent on renovations to the building on River Street ($2,298), administration ($1,871), and rent ($1,047).

In the summer of 1971, the Trudeau government set up the Canadian Youth Hostel Association which funded Cool Aid and 120 other youth hostels across Canada. “These hostels,” historian Linda Mahood writes, “were run by a new breed of long-haired civil servants and hip youth workers who could refer hostellers to job banks, education programmes, family counselling, VD clinics, psychiatric centres, and the police.”

In their request for funding to Prince Albert city council on May 5, 1971, Cool Aid’s founders, Dennis Clouthier and Rick Barsaloux, both students, received a sympathetic hearing. Mayor Val Longworth stated that he felt there was a need for such a program, and invited the community at large to lend assistance to the project. Several aldermen commended the students for their initiative in organizing the program. In reply to a question from Alderman Dick Spencer, Clouthier said that although Cool Aid members did not have professional training in social work or psychiatry, “most group members have had experience ‘on the road’ which they feel will allow them to be useful as a sort of go-between [with professionals]. We all have a definite concern for young people and feel that if no one else is making this type of proposal, why shouldn’t we?”

By late May, the tri-service youth was set up on River Street. The drop-in centre was a meeting place for both local and transient young people, with a coffee house atmosphere. The drug crisis service was a bridge between the psychiatric centre at Victoria Union Hospital and “the people on the street.” The youth hostel, which accommodated male transients only, included four beds and a shower. Young women travellers, of which there were relatively few, were billeted in local homes.

Some Prince Albert residents vigorously opposed Cool Aid. Two petitions against the centre were presented to city council in May – one from businessmen in the immediate vicinity of the centre, and one representing 107 families in the city. “This hostel will only serve one purpose – to attract undesirables,” Mrs. B. wrote in a letter to the Herald. “Who wants our main streets and park cluttered up with this trash who serve no good purpose?” A member of the Prince Albert Youth Council wrote a response to Mrs. B.’s letter the following week “They are making an effort to take them off the streets and provide something with which to occupy their time. They are trying to establish a place where adolescents who are on bad trips can go for help, and where those with problems can seek counselling,” the writer stated. “This type of accommodation is something Prince Albert has needed for some time, now more than ever.”

Despite an uphill battle, Cool Aid’s founders convinced many in the community that what they were doing was worthwhile. On August 17, 1971, Barsaloux reported to city council that the centre had accommodated about 150 travellers since it opened. “The coffee shop runs full blast every night,” he said. “The crisis centre has been a vital part of our operations, whether the problem be great or slight.” Dr. R. E. Jenkins, regional director of the psychiatric centre at Victoria Hospital, told council that Cool Aid provided a positive service to the city. In 1970, he said, the psychiatric centre “had many admissions of juveniles suffering from the effects of overdoses or bad reactions to psychedelic drugs such as LSD, but that this year there have been no admissions of this nature.” Dr. Jenkins attributed this change primarily to Cool Aid.

In late August 1971, Barsaloux asked city council for a grant to continue the centre’s operations to end of year. He announced that he was leaving Prince Albert, but he was training new management for the centre. On Mayor Longworth’s recommendation, council awarded Cool Aid a monthly grant of $275 to continue operations until December 1971.

Things went downhill from there. In January 1972, Fire Chief Slater reported to council that extensive damage had occurred inside Cool Aid’s premises before its closure in December. He recommended to council that, due to the “deplorable” condition of the building, it be demolished. Cool Aid met a sad demise.

On January 15, 1972, the Daily Herald wrote that, despite the recent problems, the Cool Aid “experiment” had been worth supporting. If a similar project was proposed for the coming summer, consideration should be given to support it. “[T]he need will still remain and unless the community wishes to bury its head in the sand, some type of centre will have to be available, at least during the summer, for transient youth,” the Herald’s editorial stated. “Centres such as Cool Aid offer these students a place to sleep and may even save the life of some person who is using drugs.”


PAssages – March 19, 1970 – The day I became a playground supervisor

by Joan Champ

When I was a young girl, my mother Mary Perkins was always signing me up for things – piano lessons, the Prince Albert Lion’s Band, the list goes on. Without a doubt, the best thing she ever signed me up for was the recreation leadership course, offered by the Prince Albert Parks and Recreation Department during the Easter break of 1970. This four-day course was a prerequisite for anyone wishing to apply for employment as a supervisor with the city’s summer playground program.

On March 19, 1970, I was awarded a leadership certificate by the City of Prince Albert and, at the age of 15, got my first real job – thanks Mom! That summer, armed with the knowledge I gained during the course – leadership skills, first aid, recreation program planning, and general supervision – I worked with a wonderful team of fellow supervisors to deliver what was one of the best playground programs anywhere.

Prince Albert’s playground development began in the 1930s, with the City’s first paddling pool opening at City Centre in July 1938. By the summer of 1948 there were six playgrounds in operation: West End, Bryant Park (now Kinsmen Park), East End, City Centre, West Hill, and North P.A. (either Nordale or Hazeldell). Total attendance in 1948 was 20,575, with the majority (7,370) at City Centre.

By 1968, three more playgrounds had been added to the system, at East Central on Sixth Avenue East, in the north end, and in the city’s newest subdivision, Crescent Heights. Service clubs played a significant role in supporting the development of Prince Albert’s nine playgrounds. The Kiwanis Club, for example, provided at least three paddling pools and numerous pieces of playground equipment for the children of the city over the years.

On July 2, 1968, the Prince Albert Daily Herald congratulated the City’s recreation department for offering the best playground program in the province, and perhaps, in western Canada. “If keeping children busy was the only prerequisite to eliminating juvenile delinquency, Prince Albert would have been free of this social malady years ago,” the editorial stated. “One obvious advantage that will be gained by a child who participates in the playground activities is the opportunity to learn to work and get along with others. In these days of racial difference, tension and violence, this lesson ranks, perhaps, above all others.”

When I was hired as a supervisor in 1970, the City’s playground program was well-established. The previous summer, the city’s children made a whopping 81,387 visits to the nine playgrounds. Weekly attendance averaged between 5,000 and 6,000. The playgrounds opened in early July and ran until the end of August, operating from 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. with closures over lunch and dinner. Each playground had two supervisors, one full-time (Monday to Friday) and one part-time (weekends). We wore uniforms – white terrycloth tank tops and red shorts—with name tags and lanyards for keys and whistles. Each of the seven weeks had a city-wide theme. For example, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” week featured sports-related crafts and games and culminated in a sports day held at Bryant (Kinsmen) Park, with each playground entering teams.

I was the part-time supervisor at the East Central playground during my first summer. The following summer, I was the full-time supervisor at East End playground. In 1972, I served as the full-time supervisor on the Craft Caravan, a wagon that travelled from one playground to another every week to teach puppetry and arts and crafts.

During my three summers with playgrounds, I formed life-long friendships with fellow supervisors. I discovered that I could handle emergencies on my own – like removing shards of broken glass from small feet. I got a great tan. Most importantly, I learned leadership skills that have served me well throughout my life.

Today, Prince Albert’s playground program is going strong. Curtis Olsen, the City’s Recreation Coordinator, told me that 24 employees – 20 of whom are supervisors – serve an annual attendance of about 14,000 on ten playgrounds over seven program-themed weeks. In 2011, the City began converting most of the paddling pools into spray parks for safety reasons. Three paddling pools remain – at Crescent Heights, Hazeldell, and Kinsmen Park. An exciting addition to the program is Kidzfest, an annual children’s festival in Kinsmen Park organized by the playground supervisors.

One personal story: In the 1990s, I was doing research in the Saskatchewan Archives in Saskatoon. A man with a familiar face sat at the next table. We started talking, trying to figure out how we knew each other. We were both delighted when we realized we had first met at East End playground – twenty-five years earlier. His name is Robert Doucette. I remember Robert as a bright, mischievous kid of 10 or 11 years old who attended the playground I supervised in the summer of 1971. He had been one of the reliable older kids that I enlisted to help lead different activities. For many reasons, perhaps including his leadership experience on East End Playground, Robert went on to become a true leader – President of the Métis Nation of Saskatchewan from 2007 to 2016.

PAssages – September 23, 1956 – Paved Runway Opens at PA Airport

by Joan Champ

If your family is like mine, dinner conversations often turn to “What would help to make Prince Albert a better city?” Of course, there are many answers to this question, including the suggestion that a bigger airport would help stimulate the city’s economic growth. This got me wondering about the history of Prince Albert’s airport—specifically, the development of its paved runway.

“Today we celebrate the beginning of a new era of development of our great Northland with the official opening of Prince Albert’s first paved airport runway,” said J. G. Diefenbaker, Member of Parliament for Prince Albert, on Saturday, September 23, 1956. After years of lobbying Ottawa by city officials, the new airstrip was celebrated by numerous dignitaries and a crowd of 5,000 people. The ceremony was followed by an air show sponsored by the Department of National Defence. “No events in the history of Prince Albert have been more important than this one, the opening of the hard-surfaced runway,” the Daily Herald quoted Diefenbaker. “It will play a most important role in the expansion of Prince Albert and Northern Saskatchewan.”

The history of the airstrip dates back to 1929 when the lands currently occupied by the airport were originally purchased. In the 1930s, companies like M & C Aviation used the grass runways of Prince Albert’s airport to run scheduled flights to northern destinations.

During the Second World War, the Department of National Defence invested in airport improvements at Prince Albert for the No. 6 Elementary Flying Training School (EFTS) under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. In 1941, No. 6 Air Observer School (AOS) was also established at the Prince Albert airport. Despite the contributions which Prince Albert made to Canada’s air effort during the Second World War, however, it was the only air training centre without a hard-surfaced runway by the end of the war. This was a source of frustration. Flying operations out of Prince Albert were hampered during wet weather, and maintenance costs were higher no matter what the conditions – all because of the turf airstrip.

After the war, Prince Albert continued to lobby Ottawa for a paved airport runway. Airports in other parts of Canada were given precedence over Prince Albert, however. In January 1953, the need for a hard-surfaced airstrip became particularly urgent when Canadian Pacific Airlines announced its plans to start flights into Prince Albert. The city could not add new facilities at the airport until hard-surfaced runways were installed. “We in Prince Albert are in danger of being bypassed and will be bypassed as time goes on,” Mayor J. M. Cuelenaere Q. C. stated in the Daily Herald. “Bigger aircraft need bigger and longer runways, no longer will an airfield consisting of grass and cow pasture fill the needs.”

Cuelenaere led a delegation to Ottawa to meet with the federal transport minister, Hon. Lionel Chevriet and Frank Helme, MP for Prince Albert. A few months later, in April 1953, the mayor received a telegram from Helme advising him that the federal government had set aside $500,000 for building of a paved airstrip in Prince Albert.

Surveying work began in the summer of 1953. To accommodate the 5,000-foot-long runway, the city had to acquire an additional 500 acres of land from two neighbouring farmers. A disagreement over the price led to expropriation proceedings. A settlement was reached in 1954 and the airstrip was opened to air traffic, including Canadian Pacific Airlines, in the fall of 1955.

What was termed as a cow pasture only four years earlier received a gala opening on September 24, 1956. The Daily Herald touted it as “one of Western Canada’s most modern airport runways.” In his speech at the event, Mayor D. G. Steuart emphasized that the completion of the paved airstrip was only “the first step in the development of our airport that eventually will be second to none in Western Canada.”

Since 1956, Prince Albert’s airport has experienced some growth. It was operated by Transport Canada until March 1996 when ownership and responsibility for operations were transferred to the City. Today, the airport has two runways – one paved and one turf – five taxiways, and four aprons. Since it opened in 1956, the paved runway has been resurfaced several times – most recently in 2012. The “Prince Albert Municipal Airport Master Plan” (March 2009) recommends that the paved runway be extended from its current 1,524 metres (5,000 feet) to 1,982 metres (6,500 feet) to enable larger aircraft to operate from the airport. A source at the airport states that there is no need to lengthen the runway at this time, however, because most of the flights in and out of Prince Albert mainly fly to northern destinations which have shorter airstrips.

Thanks to the Bill Smiley Archives for its assistance in the preparation of this column.


PAssages – September 11, 1963 – One-Way Streets Introduced

by Joan Champ

In the early 1970s, my high school friends and I occasionally “cruised” the one-way-street loop in downtown Prince Albert. We started at the bottom of the viaduct onto one-way Central Avenue, turned left on River Street, and then headed up First Avenue West – at that time also a one-way street, left onto 15th Street, and back onto Central again. This cruise often involved a stop at the A & W drive-in, where carhops would hook trays filled with our orders onto our car windows. The carhops are gone now and Gateway Mall has taken out the one-way street up First Avenue West, but the A & W and the one-way route down Central Avenue still remain.

Like many city residents throughout North America, Prince Albertans are living with the legacy of these one-way streets. As the car culture boomed in the 1950s, one-way streets were introduced as a traffic safety tool. City planners believed they would reduce accident rates by allowing for better traffic signal progression, creating traffic “clusters” with wide gaps between them. This would make it much safer for cross-street traffic, pedestrians, and bicycles to cross major streets.

In Prince Albert, the new one-way street system was introduced at 9:00 a.m. on September 11, 1963. Only Central Avenue and First Avenue West were converted; all other streets and the viaduct remained two-way. One-way signs were uncovered by city crews at the appointed hour. New traffic lights, including walk signals for pedestrians, had been installed. “I would ask all citizens to familiarize themselves with the change,” Mayor Allan Barsky told the Herald. “I feel sure that in due course one-way street driving will become second nature to them.”

On the day of the conversion, city police were on duty to assist drivers in an effort to help prevent all possible accidents. Warnings were given to drivers for any traffic violations for a limited time while motorists became accustomed to the new platn. Parking on Central Avenue was also an adjustment. Drivers had to be reminded that while parking was allowed on both sides of the street, all vehicles had to be facing north.

The day after, the Daily Herald reported that the changeover had gone fairly well. “There were still a number of people, even after all the publicity given to the one-way system,” the Herald stated, “still proceeding along Central Avenue and First Avenue West, the wrong way.” Two accidents – two-car collisions – were reported immediately after the change, one of them occurring less than an hour after the system went into effect.

Speeding was a problem. Without the danger of oncoming traffic, one-way streets can feel like an invitation to hit the gas. “We have noticed some motorists engaging in dangerous practices,” a Herald editorial stated on September 13. “One is a tendency of some motorists to engage in lane-hopping, picking ‘holes’ in one lane or the other, switching lanes without first turning on signals, under the false impression that they are thus saving time.” Mayor Barsky told the newspaper that, while he was “very pleased” with the way the new one-way system was working out, the City “did not intend to allow the streets to become drag strips or speedways.” He cautioned that the new system was designed to provide a faster, more fluid movement of traffic, but this was to be obtained without exceeding the speed limit.

The new one-way streets presented an interesting challenge for the fire department, which was located at the bottom of Central Avenue on River Street where the museum is now. Fire Chief George Slater said the new system was better for the department. He noted that if a fire broke out on Central Avenue, the trucks would have to travel south on Central, against the one-way traffic flow. “This is common practice in other centres,” he said. “In some ways it is even safer than when traffic is going both ways, as all the traffic is facing the on-coming trucks.”

By the beginning of October 1958, the Herald reported that Prince Albertans were getting used to the one-way street pattern. Very few accidents had been reported, however the police chief said there were still a few drivers who absent-mindedly turned the wrong way on either Central Avenue or First Avenue West.

After living away from Prince Albert for several decades, I have to admit that one-way Central Avenue has taken me a bit of getting used to. So far, though, I haven’t caused any accidents.

Thanks to the Bill Smiley Archives for its assistance in preparing this column.


PAssages – July 30, 1958 – Princess Margaret’s visit to the Skotheim farm

by Joan Champ

Royal visits to Prince Albert and points north are not that common, but when John G. Diefenbaker was Prime Minister, Prince Albert and Waskesiu were on the itinerary for a visit of Princess Margaret to Canada. The sister of Queen Elizabeth arrived in Canada in mid-July 1958 for a six-week, coast-to-coast visit designed to show off the most interesting parts of the country from the point of view of a summer tourist. According to the Prince Albert Daily Herald, it was the stop at the Skotheim farm at Spruce Home, 26 kilometers north of Prince Albert on Highway 2, that members of the travelling press agreed was “the single most newsworthy event” of Princess Margaret’s visit to the region. It was there, it was reported, that she had her closest contact with “ordinary” Canadian people.

“Informality was the keynote,” the Daily Herald reported of Princess Margaret’s 45-minute visit with Peder and Alvena Skotheim and their ten children. With the Skotheims guiding her, “the princess broke completely from the official party to enter a cattle barn, a chicken house and a building housing pigs, one a fat sow about ready to give birth.” After the visit, Mr. Skotheim told the Herald that Princess Margaret “asked quite a few intelligent questions – I thought for a princess – about the animals.”

The Princess, accompanied by Prime Minister and Mrs. Diefenbaker and Lieutenant-Governor Frank L. Bastedo, also went into the Skotheim home for tea. She “walked through the farm family kitchen, complete with cistern pump and wash basin,” the Herald reported. “She met a Saskatchewan farmer, his wife and children, as they really are.” Mrs. Skotheim had prepared some special Norwegian pastries, which she served along with tea made with distilled water that had been shipped from Regina.

Despite the “intimate and human touch” that so impressed the visiting media, the Daily Herald was quick to point out that the Skotheim family was “anything but ordinary.” The Skotheim farm had been chosen as a stop for the Royal visit by the MLA for Prince Albert, Hon. L. F. McIntosh, Minister for Municipal Affairs for Saskatchewan. According to the Herald, McIntosh had two or three farms in mind, but it was Peder Skotheim’s “great progress” in diversified and mixed farming led the Minister to recommend the Skotheim farm.

The Skotheims had moved to their farm at Spruce Home in 1933 after having been driven off a farm in southern Saskatchewan by drought. They spent their first winter in a one-room log cabin, and over the years made many improvements to their farm. “The immaculate white buildings, with their cheery red and yellow trim, the well-kept yard surrounded by maple, poplar, caragana, lilac, and a magnificent weeping birch, all attest to the hours of painstaking toil and loving care that have gone into the building of this attractive little farm,” Vera Simenson wrote in the Daily Herald on the eve of Princess Margaret’s visit. With 80 head of cattle, 120 purebred Yorkshire hogs, and about 300 acres under cultivation, Peder and Alvena “recommend a farm as an ideal place to bring up children, where there is an opportunity to work and play in a healthful atmosphere.”

Mrs. Skotheim said she was “thrilled almost speechless” when the news came that she would have the great honour of “playing hostess” to Princess Margaret. The ten Skotheim children, ranging in age from 4 to 24, helped with the arrangements for the Royal visit. The family’s only regret was that they could not share more of the big event with their friends and neighbours. The Princess arrived on the farm by helicopter. “If she was travelling by car, it would enable a lot more people in the district to get a good view of her,” Mrs. Skotheim pointed out. The general public was not allowed onto the immediate farmyard during the visit.

The tour of the Skotheim farm was just one part of Princess Margaret’s two-day visit to the Prince Albert area. She arrived at the airport at 3:30 pm on Tuesday, July 29th, drove to the exhibition grounds in the city where 10,000 people attended a formal welcoming ceremony, then flew by helicopter for an overnight stay at Waskesiu in the summer cottage of A. A. Murphy, owner of CFQC in Saskatoon. The next day, after a 25-minute driving tour of the Waskesiu townsite, the Princess flew to the Skothiem farm. She then departed for the Prince Albert airport, and flew on to Toronto.

Thank you to the staff and volunteers at the Prince Albert Historical Society for their assistance in the preparation of this column, and for providing access to more than 300,000 negatives in the Prince Albert Daily Herald collection.

PAssages – October 12, 1960 – ‘Our bridge continues to be a source of friction’

by Joan Champ

“Our bridge continues to be a source of friction” – it’s a headline in the Prince Albert Daily herald that could have been written today, but it was written almost 60 years ago, on October 6, 1960.

The Herald’s editorial, published just days before the city’s current bridge was officially opened in the city, stated: “Prince Albert’s contentious bridge will undoubtedly be opened and put into useful service in the not too distant future, but it is questionable if any comparable bridge in the country has been the centre of quite so much difficulty during its planning and construction phases.”

Since its conception in 1958, Prince Albert’s bridge, renamed the John G. Diefenbaker Bridge in 1967, was the source of considerable bickering between the three levels of government who helped pay for it. The financial arrangements were, of course, a major source of contention. The provincial government led by Premier Tommy Douglas fought to ensure that the federal government’s share was not deducted from the Roads to Resources program designed to open northern Saskatchewan.

In the end, it was agreed that the federal government would pay 50%, the province would pay 37½%, and the City of Prince Albert, with a bustling population of 23,000, would pay the balance.

From 1909 until 1960, vehicles crossed the North Saskatchewan River at Prince Albert using a combination railway/traffic bridge. It had the railway tracks in the middle, 12-foot traffic trusses on either side, and then pedestrian lanes outside the traffic lanes.

Today, this bridge, next to the Diefenbaker Bridge, is still used by railway trains.

Once the Prince Albert bridge was completed, even the arrangements for the opening ceremonies on October 12, 1960 proved challenging. Prime Minister Diefenbaker was furious that the provincial government set the date for the opening without consulting the federal government which had made the largest contribution ($1 million) to the project.

The Daily Herald stated in its October 6th editorial that it felt the province had “not demonstrated the degree of good public relations that had been expected.” The newspaper claimed that, right from the inception of the bridge project, the province had adopted a sort of “take it or leave it” attitude, which gave the City of Prince Albert very little choice about if, when, or where the bridge was to be built.

Given the squabble over plans for the opening, the Herald suggested that, if an agreement could not be reached, “that it might be diplomatic to put the bridge into use without any political or official opening fanfare of any sort.”

In the end, common sense prevailed. The “dignified” opening of Prince Albert’s $2.5 million bridge went ahead on October 12, attended by representatives of the three levels of government – Prime Minister Diefenbaker, Premier Douglas, and city mayor Allan Barsky. In their speeches at the event, both Diefenbaker and Douglas emphasized the importance of the Prince Albert bridge as a gateway to the north.

It was a key part, both leaders stated, of the Roads to Resources program that would help make Saskatchewan’s north accessible for resource extraction.

“As most citizens will know,” Mayor Barsky reminded the crowd, “the dream of a new bridge for Prince Albert has been one of long standing. Problems of cost and prior construction seemed to doom this dream to an early death, but Prince Albertans are persistent people.” Barsky credited his predecessor, David Steuart, mayor of the city in 1958, for spearheading the negotiations with the senior levels of government that resulted in the construction of a modern, four-lane traffic bridge.

In the years since 1960, traffic congestion on the Diefenbaker Bridge has increasingly been a source of frustration in Prince Albert.
In 2011, for example, traffic was restricted for several months after a crack was discovered in one of the girders of the bridge. On the May 2016 long weekend, angry drivers passing through the city reported waiting on Highway 2 for more than two hours due to bridge maintenance.

For several years now, many have called for the construction of a second bridge over the North Saskatchewan River. Most recently, Prince Albert city councillor Charlene Miller proposed a motion to investigate the cost of installing a toll on the city’s bridge, the proceeds from which would go towards the funding of a second bridge.

“I think that this toll will make the provincial and the federal government aware that we’re actually trying to do our part,” Miller told the Daily Herald.

The Diefenbaker Bridge cost $2.5 million to build in 1960. Today, it is estimated that a second bridge could cost $150 million. Let us hope that the negotiations for a new bridge go more smoothly than they did 60 years ago…

Campaign for a new bridge, “Prince Albert’s greatest need,” in September 1951.

Thanks to the Bill Smiley Archives for its assistance in the preparation of this column.


PAssages – June 29, 1959 – Women Allowed in Prince Albert Bars

by Joan Champ

Saskatchewan beer parlours were men-only enclaves until the early 1960s, when provincial liquor legislation permitted mixed drinking in newly christened “beverage rooms.”

Since the Second World War, the case had gradually built for more liberal liquor laws in Saskatchewan. Veterans of the war had fond memories of spending a happy hour or two with their girls in English pubs or European bistros. After the war, however, women were only permitted to drink with men in Legion halls, in private clubs, at weddings, in hotel rooms, or in their own homes.

In 1958, Saskatchewan’s Liquor Sales Outlet Inquiry Committee investigated provincial liquor laws. In its report released that July, the committee recommended that beer parlours should be improved, and that there should be mixed drinking outlets. During the debate that followed in the legislature, Attorney-General Robert A. Walker said he supported mixed drinking in beverage rooms. This change would, he believed, end “the obscene kind of drinking” that took place in the beer parlour, “an outlet which caters to the lowest common denominator of depravity.”

On April 1, 1959, the Liquor Licensing Act established a process of local options votes whereby licensed dining rooms, cocktail bars, and beverage rooms could be established in Saskatchewan communities. Women were to be allowed into these new liquor outlets. Regulations required that hotels make renovations to convert their beer parlours into beverage rooms to accommodate mixed drinking. Men-only beer parlours could continue to operate. 

The City of Prince Albert did not waste any time holding its local option vote. On June 29, 1959, the Daily Herald reported, city voters gave new liquor outlets “a resounding splash of approval.” The 25 per cent of the 15,000 eligible voters who turned out at the polls on that warm and sunny Monday gave their approval by a margin of two to one.

Perhaps this positive outcome was a result, in part, of the full-page advertisement placed in the Daily Herald by the Hotels Association of Saskatchewan the day before the vote was held. For years, temperance advocates had lobbied to prevent beer parlours from making improvements that might make drinking an “attractive” or “glamorous” experience. “Why,” the Association asked, “should persons who wish a drink be deprived of decent surroundings or comfortable furniture?” With the voters’ approval, the hotel owners pledged to make improvements to their drinking establishments. “Certain ugly, dingy and non-glamorous outlets are not desirable,” the Association stated.

The thought of women in beer parlours was frowned upon by many, however. The prevailing conviction was that a woman’s proper role was as a wife, mother and homemaker. Many considered beer parlours to be morally compromised places frequented by morally suspect patrons. The issue was further complicated by the fact that a lot of men, including many hotel operators, workers, and their customers, simply did not want women in what was considered male social space. Hotelmen feared that the presence of women might curtail the consumption of beer. Male camaraderie might be inhibited.

Nevertheless, Prince Albert hotelmen could see the writing on the barroom wall. After the vote results were announced, several local hotel managers revealed to the Daily Herald that they had already made preliminary plans to make changes. “We will definitely apply for both a beverage room and a dining room licence,” stated Norman Jarvis, manager of the Marlboro Hotel. “As a matter of fact, the sketches of alterations have been made, and we expect to have our blueprints about the first part of next week.”

Ralph Nash at the Lincoln Hotel on Central Avenue said, “Of course, we will apply for a beverage license now that the vote has indicated that the public wishes this kind of service.” The Lincoln Hotel did not unveil its “new look” until 1967 under the management John Semchuk. “The new renovated Beverage Room is one of the finest in the city,” the Lincoln’s ad in the Herald proclaimed. “A place to meet your friends or take your wife … the cool comfortable surroundings will make you feel well at ease.”

Throughout the 1960s, the hotels throughout Saskatchewan spent millions of dollars to make improvements to their beverage rooms. Carpet, acoustic tile and inset lighting were installed, and new entrances were constructed to accommodate the new liquor laws. At the 1962 convention of the Hotels Association, George B. Stewart, chairman of the provincial liquor licensing commission, told the delegates that, prior to the passage of the Liquor Licensing Act three years earlier, “the people of Saskatchewan were the most uncivilized drinkers in the world.” Since then, he asserted, the overall standards of beverage rooms were “magnificent,” saying women had lent the new drinking establishments “an air of decency.” 

Thanks to the Bill Smiley Archives for its assistance in the preparation of this column.

PAssages – June 5, 1959 – The radar station opens – with an assist from the moon

by Joan Champ

The summer of 1959 was an exciting time for the development of new technologies. The “space race” was underway, and Prince Albert was at the forefront of some important North American defence research, specifically, the detection of intercontinental ballistic missiles. On June 5, 1959, Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker officially opened the radar lab (now the satellite station) located 12 miles west of Prince Albert.

During the Cold War era, fear of a nuclear attack from Russia was high. The United States wanted to develop a missile detection system but was concerned that the Aurora Borealis (or Northern Lights) might block the existence of a Russian missile until it was too late. After Russia launched Sputnik in 1957, the United States Air Force sought advice from scientists from the Physics department of the University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, who had considerable expertise in auroral studies.

Following these talks, Canada and the United States negotiated a joint agreement to install a large research radar lab in Saskatchewan. The Americans provided and installed $1.5 million in equipment, including the 84-foot parabolic antenna. Canada provided the one-square-mile site on Crown Land near Prince Albert, constructed the required structures, and operated the facility.
The Prince Albert Daily Herald reported that Prime Minister Diefenbaker headed a long list civilian and military personnel who attended the opening of the Prince Albert Radar Laboratory on June 5, 1959. A stand had been erected near the antenna from which the Prime Minister and Hartley Zimmerman, Chairman of Defence Research Board of Canada, addressed the invited guests.
The American ambassador to Canada, Richard B. Wigglesworth, was in attendance as were about 40 scientists from both countries. Local guests included PA Mayor Allan Barsky, police chief L. M. Poole, fire chief Alfred Turner, and L. F. McIntosh, MLA for Prince Albert.

The highlight of the opening was US President Dwight Eisenhower’s message to Prime Minister Diefenbaker, sent by means of a radio signal bounced off the moon. At that time, sending a message across the border via the moon might have seemed a little absurd.

And today, as our phone and internet signals routinely travel up to satellites and back, Eisenhower’s technological feat might seem a bit ho-hum. It was, however, an effective demonstration.

At the end of his speech, Mr. Diefenbaker pressed a button on the podium which appeared to activate the 84-foot parabolic antenna. (Radar lab staff controlled the movement of the dish from behind the scenes.)

As the device pointed up towards the moon, the voice of the President Eisenhower was heard. “I am delighted to greet you, Mr. Prime Minister, and the Canadian people on the occasion of the opening of the Prince Albert Radar Laboratory,” Eisenhower said in his message. “The completion of this laboratory constitutes another major advance along the road of cooperative ventures between our two countries in defense research and other fields.

The transmission of this message by way of the moon – a distance of almost half a million miles – emphasizes the technical importance of your new laboratory and is a specific illustration of the scientific cooperation between Canada and the United States. The work of this laboratory cannot fail to make a significant contribution, in future years, toward the solving of mutual problems.”
“It is difficult for earth-bound, non-scientific Canadians to grasp the importance and scope of these developments,” the PA Daily Herald observed a few days later.

“Even the ability to transmit a message between Boston and Prince Albert by way of the moon in a matter of two or three seconds is something that is beyond the understanding and appreciation of many people. But there is no question that the work that is to be carried on at the Prince Albert laboratory in the years to come may play a vital role in Canadian and North American defence. For that reason, alone, Prince Albert and district people can feel a sense of pride that an installation of this importance has been situated here.”

Once the official opening was over, the eight members of the radar lab’s engineering and technical staff got down to business. Auroral research, the reason for the existence of facility, began in January 1960, conducted in cooperation with the University of Saskatchewan’s Physics Department. Satellite tracking began in February 1960. Natural Resources Canada has operated the Prince Albert Satellite Station since 1972.

Personal note: As some of you know, there is good blueberry picking in the pines near the radar station. One summer, my mother and I went berry picking out there and Mom lost her car keys. They had fallen out of her pocket as she made her way through the forest, filling her container with berries. If only the radar station could have pointed its rays down into the blueberry patch and located her keys. Then maybe we wouldn’t have had to hitchhike back to town!

Thanks to the Bill Smiley Archives for its assistance in the preparation of this column

PAssages – Former P.A. girl comes home

by Joan Champ

Late one sunny morning in July 1969, after a long drive from Redding, California, my family of five, plus a dog and a cat, arrived in Prince Albert. My father, Jim Perkins, had accepted a job offer with the woodlands division of Parsons and Whittemore, owner of the new pulp mill in town. After five years in the States we were returning to our Canadian homeland. Tired and hungry, but excited that we had finally arrived at our destination, we decided to go for lunch at the Marlboro Hotel. The first person we saw when we walked into the restaurant was former Prime Minister John G. Diefenbaker dining with some of his friends. What a great welcome to Prince Albert! 

My other vivid memory from that summer of 1969 is sitting on the golden sands of Minowukaw Beach at Candle Lake looking up at the night sky as the first man walked on the moon. Over the next three years while I attended high school at P.A. Tech, my memories include learning about “the lake” culture – cabins and shack tents and wiener roasts on the beach. I remember going to some amazing Ukrainian weddings where I learned how to do the polka, the butterfly, and the schottische. I attended Rec Centre dances almost every weekend where I heard bands such as Chilliwack, Lighthouse, and Witness. I played flute in the P.A. Lions Band. I was fortunate to be hired by P.A. Parks and Recreation for three summers in a row as a supervisor for one of the best outdoor playground programs in Canada. Later, I even worked in the office out at the pulp mill. 

After I graduated from high school, I went on to university in Saskatoon. My love of stories led me to study history – and more specifically, western Canadian history. Under the supervision of well-known Saskatchewan historian, Dr. Bill Waiser, I received my Master’s degree in 1990. My knowledge of history opened doors to a wonderful career in the heritage field. Most recently, I worked for fifteen years at the Western Development Museum, first in exhibit production and finally as the Chief Executive Officer for all four WDMs.

Over the years, I kept in touch with my Prince Albert roots. My parents, Jim and Mary Perkins, still live in the city, as does my sister and her family. Imagine my delight, therefore, when Star News Publishing offered my husband Gordon Brewerton the position of Vice President, Operations, at the P.A. Daily Herald. In April, we moved to Prince Albert from St. John’s, Newfoundland, where Gordon worked as Publisher of The Telegram. 

It is great to be living in P.A. once more, and to reacquaint myself with city life. So many things I remember have now disappeared – movie theatres like the Strand and the Pines drive-in, Sick’s Bohemian Brewery (although I have to admit Boh was not my favourite beer), the Memorial swimming pool, P.A. Indian Residential School, and the pulp mill. But so many things still remain – like the Prince Albert Arts Centre, Little Red Park, the Historical Museum, the Raiders, and the city’s wonderful summer playground program. There are new things for me to take in now, too, like the incredible E. A. Rawlinson Centre for the Arts, the Northern Lights Casino, several good restaurants, and the Alfred Jenkins Field House.

In the coming weeks, you will find my column on various aspects of Prince Albert’s past in the pages of the Daily Herald and Rural Roots. If you have comments or memories you would like to share, please contact me at .